The UEFA Europa League can trace its roots to the establishment of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1955. It was a tournament held over the course of three years in conjunction with trade fairs, and won by FC Barcelona over a London side, 8-2 on aggregate in the final. Credit goes to Switzerland`s Ernst Thommen, Italy`s Ottorino Barrasi, and England`s Sir Stanley Rous as the fathers of the original competition.
For the second meeting in 1958~1960, clubs instead of cities were invited to participate and sixteen took part in what would thereafter become an annual event. Spanish clubs dominated until 1968, when Leeds United AFC became the first northern European team to claim the trophy, launching a run of six successive victories by English sides.
In 1972, the UEFA took over organisation of the tournament, unhitched it from the trade fairs, renamed the event, and saw Tottenham Hotspur FC win the first official UEFA Cup. Clubs from Northern Europe traded the title throughout the 1970s, and then Southern Europe regained control in the 1980s. Clubs such as Juventus, Real Madrid CF, SSC Napoli, and FC Internazionale Milano emerged as the powerhouses of the 1990s.
During all but two years in the 1960s, the UEFA Cup featured a two-legged final, but that was switched permanently to a one-tie final in 1998. When the UEFA Winner’s Cup was disbanded in 1999/2000, domestic cup winners were automatically qualified for the UEFA Cup tournament, along with clubs eliminated from the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League plus the eight third-placed finishers at the conclusion of the group stage of that competition.
In 2004/2005, 40 teams played four games each as a group stage was introduced for the UEFA Cup. Then, in 2009/2010, the competition was relaunched as the UEFA Europa League, expanding the group stage to 48 clubs playing six matches in a home-and-away scheme similar to the format of the UEFA Champions League, with the competition every bit as intense if not quite as prestigious.
Ante post betting on what team will come out on top of the Europe League starts even before the qualifying rounds begin in July. The earlier one places a wager, the greater the return on investment can be. Following the play-off in August, the draw for the 32-club group stage is known, and the wagering picks up its pace, with betting on who will win the groups as well as which team will claim the overall championship and the 15-kilogram, silver Bertoni trophy.
During September through December, six match days determine the seeds for the knock phase. The group of 32 is whittled down to 16 in February, and then eight in March, reaching the final four in April-May. The finalists face off in mid-May, culminating a journey that takes up the better part of a year, involving 157 participating clubs and plenty of travel. It is the second biggest regional club tournament in Europe.
Bookmakers offer specials on the Europa League throughout the year. Like the Champions League, winners are typically from one of the three big European leagues—the English Premier League, La Liga of Spain, or Italy’s Serie A, although upsets are not uncommon.
During the 32-club group stage, many bookmakers offer in-play betting opportunities, especially on the televised matches, of which there are many. As in other football betting, betting outright on match-ups is popular, as is handicap wagering and betting on draws at fixed odds. Other markets include which side will score first, who will be the first goal scorer, and even which minute the first goal will be scored, over or under.
Most recently, UEFA Europa League Fantasy Football has been launched, and wagering is available between participants. It launches just before the start of the new 32-team season.