Time for a UEFA shake-up.
1) Winner gets Champions League place
The reward of a spot in the Champions League would certainly make all sides give a damn. Yes it would mean UEFA admitting that the Europa League is very much the second tier of European competition but this is not exactly a secret. The amount of interest the competition would receive at every level would be substantial.
All of a sudden the race for 5th, 6th etc… would mean a hell of a lot.
2) Knockout competition all the way
Less is more. What is the point in having a group stage when neither side has heard of the other? Fans of football clubs fork out large sums of money to follow their sides in domestic action and are not prepared to fork out big sums for cup competition round robins that invariably involve two or three totally pointless encounters.
3) Regionalise early rounds
If they are not going to do away with the group format then split teams into regions, at least until the Champions League sides enter the competition. This way you prevent sides sending out weakened elevens to far flung destinations.
4) More exclusive
Alter the ratio of clubs per league. Attempt to scale back on too many entrants from ‘lesser’ nations. Whilst clearly this reduces the ‘European’ equality, it would also improve the quality.
5) Two legged final
Something that set the UEFA Cup aside from the European Cup, was the two legged final system. This gave the final a kind of extra appeal and also helped fans of both sides to fully enjoy the occasion. A far better alternative to having punt ticket allocations for two sides in a far flung venue that then ends up half filled with corporates and ‘neutrals’ who are more interested in the ‘occasion’ than the two clubs doing battle.