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Europa winners to play Champions League

CHELSEA-CELEBLONDON, England, May 24 – The winners of the Europa League will automatically qualify for a place in the lucrative Champions League from 2015, UEFA announced on Friday.

UEFA president Michel Platini said the winner of the 2014-15 Europa League would play in the 2015-16 Champions League.

The move comes in a bid to boost the appeal of the second-tier tournament.

“As was proven with this year’s magnificent final, the UEFA Europa League has gone from strength to strength, but we wanted to give clubs a further incentive, so that all of them play with a desire to win the competition,” Platini said.

“By guaranteeing access to the UEFA Champions League for the winners, we are convinced that the UEFA Europa League will increase its appeal for clubs and their supporters.”

Meanwhile, Germany’s Bundesliga will be on show to the world in Saturday’s Champions League final when Bayern Munich take on Borussia Dortmund in the first all-German European cup finale.

Wembley is set to be bathed in black, red and gold for the day and football fans will have a chance to see why the crowds are turning to the German league in their droves.

With an average of 44,293, the Bundesliga has the highest attendance figures in the world with the cheapest season ticket for an adult standing on the terraces costing 120 euros (155 dollars, 102 pounds) at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, while Dortmund charge 187 euros (241 dollars, 160 pounds) at the Westfalenstadion.

In contrast, last season’s prices in the English Premier League (EPL) saw the cheapest season ticket at Arsenal set fans back 985 pounds (1,151 euros, 1,488 dollars), while it cost 255 pounds (298 euros, 385 dollars) to watch relegated Wigan Athletic.

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The Bundesliga is now broadcast in 150 countries, but still falls behind the EPL in terms of global popularity, although in terms of value-for-money in the stadiums, the German league goes from strength to strength.

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has said the attitude of clubs towards their fans is the key difference between the leagues in England and Germany.

“We could charge more than £102. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2m more in income but what’s £2m to us?,” said the Bayern boss.

“In a transfer discussion, you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £102 and £300 is huge for the fan.

“We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody.

“That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”

Another key factor is the Bundesliga’s “50+1 ownership” rule, wich protects German clubs from interference by big-spending overseas backers.

English clubs receive huge funds from foreign investors, with wealthy figures from Russia, the Middle East and Asia filling various clubs’ coffers, leading to three Champions League winners (Liverpool in 2005, Manchester United in 2008 and Chelsea in 2012), plus five runners-up from the EPL.

With huge wage bills, the success comes at a price with most clubs saddled with heavy debts and foreign sugar daddies who can withdraw their financial support at any moment.

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In contrast, German teams abide by the principle of “50+1 ownership”, which means members must retain a majority stake in the club, while investors can own no more than 49 percent.

The rule is designed to allow investment opportunities while preventing an individual from having overall control.

“The biggest difference for the development of German football is the 50+1 rule, it means clubs can make their own decisions,” said Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watkze.

“We can decide our own politics with good-value tickets.

“The fact we can have 28,000 people in our stadium paying between 10 to 12 euros, but we still have sporting success is interesting for the English media.”

There is huge pride in Germany at having two teams in the final, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to attend.

“It’s fantastic for German football, also for the future for the national team with a view to next year’s World Cup,” said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.

“The Bundesliga is a product which has come from lots of good work, with young, talented players and national players playing well. It makes German football so attractive at the moment.”

The Bundesliga is finding plenty of support from UK fans, many of whom are lured to Germany a few times per season by the prospect of good beer, cheap tickets and the ability to stand on the terraces, which no longer exist in all-seater EPL stadiums.

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“Bundesliga prices are roughly 50 percent less than you’d pay in the Premier League, so even with the cost of a flight and a bed in a hostel, it’s still often cheaper to go over,” Ben McFadyean, a committee member of the Borussia Dortmund UK Fan club, told AFP.

“Football is a grassroots sport, it should be for everyone and I am sick of corporates coming in.

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