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Europa winners set to earn spot in Champions League

UEFA has sought to increase the appeal of the Europa League by announcing that from 2015 the competition's winners will qualify for the elite Champions League.

Sixteen teams rather than the current six will also qualify directly for the group stages of UEFA's secondary competition in a bid to boost its prestige and attractiveness to sponsors.

"This decision will have a huge impact on the Europa League and it will also have an impact on national league competitions," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said.

"It is fair to say there has not been the same enthusiasm for the competition in the past but this will boost the whole of the European football movement."

The change will come into effect after the current TV contract for the Champions League expires in 2015.

The Europa League has long been seen as an also-ran competition for clubs missing out on the Champions League. The change means clubs may start to treat it more seriously.

Infantino said: "It will also benefit clubs in some of the lower leagues. As 16 teams from the top 12 nations will now go directly into the Europa league group stage.

"This means that a team from a country ranked 25th say, would not have to play a team from one of the top nations to qualify, but has a better chance against say a team from a country ranked 20th."