Think for a moment about the organisation of tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League or the European Championships. How do you decide how many teams are eligible for entry into each competition, when those teams should enter the competition or what about the fixtures of those competitions?
It’s clear that without a ranking system the organisation would be utter chaos. That is the role of the UEFA Coefficients. A complex system which has a profound effect on both European club football as well as European international football. Each confederation across the world has their own variants of a coefficient system, however none exert as much influence on the world game as the UEFA system.
The UEFA coefficients were originally established in 1955. At a base level the UEFA coefficients are a series of statistics which are used to determine rankings and seedings for both club and international competitions. There are three different coefficients, they are as follows:
UEFA National Team Coefficient Ranking System:
UEFA use the national team coefficient for two main purposes. It is used to determine which “pot” a national team will be placed in for the draws for both qualification and the final tournament of the European Championships. Previously it was also used to determine seeding for World Cups, however UEFA recently decided to abide by the FIFA directive that stated all World Cup seedings should be based of the FIFA ranking systems.
Prior to Euro 2008 each teams coefficient was calculated by dividing the number of points scored (three for a win, one for a draw) by the number of matches played in the last two qualification rounds of the World Cup & European Championships.
At the conclusion of Euro 2008 UEFA introduced a new method of calculating the national team coefficients. Today teams ranking points are determined from the matches they played in during the last five qualifiers and final tournments of both the World Cup and European Championsip.
The following criteria are used to calculate the coefficient.
- 10,000 points are awarded for each match played
- 30,000 points are awarded for a win, 20,000 for a win via penalties and 10,000 for a draw or losing via a penalty shoot out
- Final tournaments and Qualification play offs are granted extra points (6,000 to 38,000 depending on game)
- 501 points for each goal scored, 500 lost for each goal conceded
- Total points are then divided by total matches played across the previous 5 tournaments
- Points scored are weighted so that recent tournaments are more important than older tournaments
- Hosts who haven’t taken in part in qualification tournaments are given special consideration.
As a quick example as to how the coefficient points for a single game would be calculated lets look at last year’s European Championship final between Spain & Germany. Spain won 1-0
The points that both Spain and Germany scored above were then added to their total points scored over the last 5 tournaments and then divided by the amount of matches they played within that tournament.
UEFA have provided an excellent PDF document explaining in detail how all of these calculations are applied. You can find it here: UEFA National Team Coefficient Ranking System (PDF).
UEFA League Coefficient Ranking System:
The primary usage of the league coefficient is to rank the leagues of Europe and then through the rankings work how how many clubs from each league are entered into the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
The Coefficients are determined each year and take effect at the beginning of the following season. i.e. the 2009 ranking will influence the 2010/11 season.
The calculation process is pretty straight forward. It’s based on the results of the league’s clubs in both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
This coefficient is determined by the results of the clubs of the leagues in UEFA Champions League and Europa League games over the past five seasons. The number of points awarded each season (two for each win by a club from that league, one for a draw) is divided by the number of teams that participated for that nation in that season. This number is then truncated after three decimal places (e.g. 2 2/3 will be truncated to 2.666).
For the league coefficient the season’s league coefficients for the last five seasons must be added up. In the preliminary rounds of both the Champions League and Europa League, the awarded points are halved. Bonus points are allocated for:
- Qualifying for the Champions League group phase and Europa League round of 16. (4 bonus points)
- Reaching the second round of the Champions League.
- Reaching the quarter, semi and final of both Champions League and Europa League.
The bonus points are added to the number of points scored in a season.
UEFA Club Coefficient Ranking System:
The final piece to the UEFA coefficient comes from the success of the club itself over the past five years of European competition. The Club coefficient is weighted as 33% of the league coefficient plus the points earned by the club during the five previous season.
The clubs get two points for a win and one point for a draw in games of the main stage of European competitions. Participation in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League is rewarded with three points. Reaching every knockout round of Champions League or quarter-finals and every further rounds of UEFA Cup is rewarded with a point.
The ranking is used by UEFA to determine which pot the club belongs to in the preliminary and first rounds of the Champions League, as well as the initial rounds of the Europa League.