Results guarantee two Champions League spots for Scotland
Scotland will again have two teams in the Champions League qualifiers for the 2012/13 season after favourable results in the Europa League.
**Scotland will have two clubs in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League for season 2012/13. **
Rangers' draw with Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League on Thursday night, coupled with the exit of Swiss clubs Young Boys and FC Basel, has ensured the restoration of two qualifying spots in Europe's premier club competition.
For the 2011/12 campaign, Scotland will lose one of its qualification spots in the Champions League because of a drop in coefficient, which is calcuated over the last five years a season in advance of its application. But, because of the three results on Thursday night, that reduction will only be temporary, with the nation moving back into Europe's top 15 countries.
Thursday's three results, which saw FC Basel lose to Spartak Moscow, Young Boys lose to Zenit St Petersburg and Rangers draw against Sporting Lisbon, have guaranteed Scotland's position of at least 15th in the 2011 UEFA Country Ranking, ahead of Switzerland. The country ranked 15th is given two spots in the Champions League, while the nation in 16th is only afforded one.
No other countries below position 15 have teams remaining in European competition, meaning the SPL champions and runners-up in season 2011/12 will both enter the Champions League qualifying rounds in 2012/13. Scotland's coefficient, which is calculated over five seasons, now stands at 24.941.
The rise in the rankings will also ensure five Scottish clubs will be involved in Europe for the 2012/13 season, up from four next campaign, with three teams taking part in the Europa League. The Scottish Cup winners will enter at the play-off round stage, the SPL's third placed team in qualifying round three and the side in fourth in the top flight in the second qualifying round.
Rangers could yet provide even better news for the country's Champions League hopes for 2012/13, if they can continue to rack up coefficient points. Every win in the competition adds 0.4 to the running tally, with a draw contributing 0.2 points. 0.2 points are also awarded on each occasion if Rangers reach the quarter final, semi final and the final in Dublin.
If Rangers can accumulate enough points to move ahead of Belgium's 27.000 coefficient, which is now fixed, it would open up the possibility of the 2011/12 SPL champions qualifying automatically for the group stages of the following season's Champions League.
However, such an eventuality would require two factors to go in Scotland's favour. Firstly, Rangers would have to record at least a win/draw streak in each of their games and qualify for the Europa League final, or win all four last 16 and quarter final games, win or draw at least one semi final game and then exit the competition.
Then, even if that was achieved, entry to the group stages of the 2012/13 Champions League for the team that is SPL champions the year before would depend on the 2011/12 Champions League winners not requiring their qualification spot, as a result of already qualifying through their domestic finish.
It was the latter which put Rangers in the group stages of this season's Champions League, when they should have entered at the third qualifying round stage. Inter Milan's success in the competition, as well as qualification through their placing in Serie A, handed down the additional group stage berth to Rangers.
In the immediate future, although Scotland officially will have only one Champions League participant for the 2011/12 season, the country's placing on UEFA's Access List for the competition allows for the possibility of the SPL champions having only to negotiate two qualifying rounds, rather than three.
As it stands, this season's SPL winners will enter in the second qualifying round of the competition, before progressing down the Champions Path of two further rounds before the group stage.
However, if the winners of this season's Champions League also qualify for next season's competition through their domestic league finish, as was the case with Inter Milan for this campaign, the SPL winners would then only need to go through two qualifying rounds on the Champions Path rather than three.
Scotland's Europa League participants for the 2011/12 season, which will include three clubs, would be unaffected. The Scottish Cup winners and SPL's second placed side would enter at qualifying round three, with the team in third place entering a round earlier.