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The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup: European Football's Strange and Forgotten Grandfather

The forerunner of the Europa League, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was a three-year slog that teams could only enter if their home city hosted an international trade fair. Nevertheless, it played a key role in developing European club football.
16 February 2017, 5:07pm

It is sometimes said that European club football competitions are overly complicated affairs. Whereas once the European Cup was a straight knockout tournament contested only by national title-winners, it has expanded dramatically to become the Champions League, a behemoth that includes multiple qualifying rounds and three months of group games. Next season, the top four clubs from Europe's biggest (read: wealthiest) footballing nations will be guaranteed a spot in the group stages, further eroding the competition's sporting integrity.

Still, if you think that's a nasty mixture of convoluted fixtures and blatant bias, the long-defunct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup will make your eyes water. The forerunner of the modern day Europa League, this was a three-year slog that teams could only enter if their home city hosted – wait for it – an international trade fair. Qualifying for Europe via the Fair Play league seems routine by comparison.

Read this article on VICE Sports.