A new UEFA club competition is set to be introduced in the near future, the head of the European Club Association has confirmed. The new competition will sit alongside the Champions League and Europa League.
When Lazio beat Mallorca 2-1 at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, in May 1999, the Roman side became the 39th and last winners of the European Cup Winners' Cup before the competition was abolished.
But now, according to the head of the association representing Europe's biggest clubs, a third European competition is set to be introduced again.
"Pending approval of the UEFA executive committee, the 'green light' has been given to introduce a third competition," chief executive Andrea Agnelli told a meeting of the European Club Association (ECA) in Split on Tuesday.
Agnelli (42), who is also president of Italian champions Juventus and sits on the UEFA Executive Committee, added that the introduction of the new competition would bring the total number of clubs competing internationally to 96 as of the 2012-22 season.
News of the planned competition was first revealed last month by German weekly Sportbild, which also reported that the number of participants in the Europa League would be reduced from 48 to 32 as part of the reform. The new competition, the precise format of which remains unknown, is also to feature 32 teams.
According to Sportbild, UEFA hope the new format will increase the quality and attractiveness of the Europa League for television viewers, sponsors and supporters, while also offering clubs from smaller nations the chance to compete in Europe.
Back to the future?
Although the precise details of the new tournament are still unclear, the decision will stir memories of the European Cup Winners' Cup, which was contested for almost four decades between 1960 and 1999 by the winners of Europe's domestic cup competitions – although the inaugural 1960-61 competition wasn't officiallly recognized until two years later.
Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Hamburg and Werder Bremen all won the Cup Winners' Cup, while Magdeburg's victory in 1974 made them the only East German club to win a major European trophy – although Carl-Zeiss Jena and Lokomotive Leipzig did reach the final in 1981 and 1987 respectively.
Stuttgart were the last German team to reach the final in 1998 when they were beaten by Chelsea in Stockholm.
The most successful Cup Winners' Cup team was Barcelona, who won the competition a record four times.