UEFA Coefficients: How They Work, and Why Ukraine is Smiling

UEFA_members_Champs_League_group_stageThe number 47.625 probably does not mean anything to you, but to me – somebody that closely follows Russian football – it might as well be my social security number. That is Russia’s UEFA coefficient, and because it is the sixth highest of any federation in UEFA, Russia gets three Champions League and three Europa League slots.

Each season, in Champions League and Europa League competition, teams get two points for each match they win and one point for each draw. In addition, clubs are awarded points for advancing in tournaments. To figure out a federation’s single-year coefficient, you take all the points accumulated by all their clubs in European competitions, add them together and then divide by the number of teams from that federation that participated.

Are we having fun yet?

We’re already getting deep into numbers, and yet we haven’t explained the 47.625. That’s the sum of their last five single-year coefficients; or, Russia’s (full) UEFA coefficient. The highest five-year rating is England’s, with 79.499. Italy, which currently has the third highest rating (giving their league the last spot at the four Champions League spot level), has a coefficient of 62.91.

Ukraine’s coefficient is 41.850, seventh overall, 5.775 points behind Russia’s. That is important because if Ukraine was able to leapfrog Russia, they would get a three Champions League invitation spot. Russia would drop back down to two.

Unfortunately for Russia, that 5.775 point gap will almost certainly close. In 2004-05, the year that comes off the books in June (when the Champions League and Europe League are finished), Russia’s coefficient was 1.9 points better than Ukraine’s. In June 2010, they essentially lose that advantage, bringing the functional gap between them and Ukraine to 3.875 points.

To give you some perspective on the size of that gap, last year’s difference between Russia and Ukraine was 6.875 points (in favor of the Ukraine, thanks to their UEFA Cup exploits), and with only Rubin and CSKA still alive in European competition, Russia does not have a lot possibilities to come up with a long continental run. Then again, neither does the Ukraine, who have Kyiv in Champions League and Shakhtar Donetsk in Europa.

Rubin and CSKA’s qualifying for group stage means they each have four points, but unfortunately for the Premier League, they are not the only teams to take into account when determining this year’s coefficient. Russia had four teams crash-out during Europa League qualifying. In qualifying rounds, you only accumulate half the points you normally would for wins and draws. Thus, while Sovetov, Amkar, Dinamo and Zenit were being eliminated, they only accumulated three points.

Three. Four teams accumulated three points.

Add that to the points accumulated by the two Champions League teams, and Russia’s current coefficient is 1.83.

With Kyiv and Shakthar each winning their opening matches (Shaktar beat Belgium’s Club Brugge 4-1 to open Europe League), Ukraine also has eight points (six from Dinamo for a win plus UCL group stage qualification, two for Donetsk for their win). Ukraine also has some preliminary point totals to consider, some accumulated by Donetsk, others accumulated by their eliminated clubs: Metalist Kharkiv, Vorskia Poltava, and Metalurh Donetsk. Add in those extra five points, and Ukraine’s current coefficient 2.6, meaning the league has already made up another .77 points on Russia.

Right now, the gap between Russia and Ukraine is about 3.105 points.

With Donetsk in Europa, Rubin in a tough group (with Kyiv, though), and CSKA restructuring, it is not too much to think the Ukrainians can make up that gap. The key could be whether one or both of CSKA and Rubin and finish third in their Champions League group, get into Europe League, and rack up some points against easier competition.

For more on the Champions and Europa League tasks for Russian and Ukranian teams, you can visit a more expanded version of this piece here, at sister-site Russian Football Now.

Richard Farley/The Kartik Report