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Europa winners to get Champions League place

The change will boost the prestige of UEFA's secondary competition which has become largely over-shadowed by the Champions League in terms of prize money, credibility and media coverage over the last decade.

The decision, approved at this week's executive committee meeting in London, will be announced at UEFA's annual Congress on Friday.

The decision followed months of discussions between Europe's top clubs in the European Club Association (ECA) and UEFA's top officials including president Michel Platini.

Despite the presence of many of Europe's leading clubs who have missed out on the Champions League, the Europa League retains an aura of being a consolation prize for the also-rans.

Although a central marketing concept was added to the competition when it was rebranded in 2009, matches are played on Thursdays and are often shown on non-peak viewing channels.

They also generate a tiny percentage of income the Champions League can bring.

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino refused to comment on the planned change when he gave a news conference on Thursday, but said an announcement would be made at Friday's Congress.

"Discussions have taken place about the Europa League and some changes are needed for that competition," he said.

The Europa League, which succeeded the UEFA Cup in 2009-10 but retains the same trophy, features many of Europe's leading clubs who have missed out on a Champions League place.

There is already a connection between the two competitions as the eight clubs who finish third in their Champions League groups transfer into the Europa League's knockout rounds.

This season they included last year's Champions League winners Chelsea.

Despite the initial reticence of some of Chelsea's players about competing in it, the Premier League won the competition last week by beating Benfica 2-1 in a highly competitive final in Amsterdam.