Up until 1999 there were three European trophies up for grabs. The Champions League (formerly known as the European Cup), the Uefa Cup (later known as the Europa League), and the Uefa Cup Winners Cup.

It was decided that the 1998-98 season would be the last that we would see of the Cup Winners Cup. Due in part, largely, to the expansion of The Champions League that allowed for more than one team from the highest ranked associations. The competition would then be merged with the Uefa Cup to become the Europa League. Judge for yourselves whether that has been a success or not!

Huge financial incentives for clubs, led to even more clubs being allowed in. England, Spain and Germany currently have up to four teams each season in Europe’s premier club competition. The irony of calling it the ‘Champions League’ is obviously lost on Uefa bosses.

Yet the Cup Winners Cup IS missed.

What Arsenal fan can ever forget the glorious night in Copenhagen in ‘94, where they withstood everything Italian side Parma could throw at them? And won it thanks to a goal from Alan Smith. Or Manchester United’s sole success in 1991? This was the first year that English clubs were allowed back in Europe following the Heysel ban. And yet the English side would triumph against Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona side in Rotterdam.

The premise was simple. If you won your country’s cup competition(s), you were in. Yet this didn’t dilute the calibre of clubs participating. Far from it. Only until the late 90s when the Champions League expanded did this become the case.

Until then, the clubs that triumphed ranged from Barcelona (the competition’s record winners by the way, with four triumphs) to Bayern Munich, and AC Milan to Juventus.

English teams were particularly successful, with Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Everton, West Ham and Manchester City all winners at some point.


As already discussed, the finances on offer to those in the Champions League, mean it probably won’t ever be decreased in size. But what about this for a suggestion on how the Premier League’s European slots could be allocated if the competition was to make a comeback?

The top qualify for the Champions League. The teams that finish 3rd, 4th and 5th qualify for the Uefa Cup. While the winners of the #FA Cup and League Cup qualifies for the Cup Winners Cup. With spaces allocated on league position if teams qualify through two separate routes (winning a cup and finishing 3rd for example).

Powerful Clubs

In 1999, ultimately, European football was changed forever with the Cup Winners Cup being abolished. The Champions League became an even bigger monster - maybe too big. While the newly named Europa League still remains a bit of a joke competition, particularly in England.

Uefa had to interfere with a perfectly good format, largely due to the clubs becoming increasingly powerful and influential in how the game should be run.

Which was a shame. The Cup Winners Cup was a tremendous competition, and one that is still missed to this day.