Intertoto Cup: History and Competition Format
Inception and history || Competition format
INCEPTION AND HISTORY
Originally, Intertoto Cup was conceived in 1961 as an alternative European competition whose only goal was to generate money for football pools companies in the summer, and thus guarantee profits for the increasing market of betting. The man behind this idea was Karl Rappan, a quite succesful Austrian coach in the 40s and 50s who was highly respected and admired for his innovative methods (coaching Switzerland, he was the inventor of the "Verrou Defense" or "Swiss Bolt", which was later introduced in the Italian League and developed into the famous―or infamous―"Catenaccio").
Rappan dreamed of creating a European League, a more global tournament than Champions Cup (subject to knock-out rounds), and he travelled to some countries to spread this idea among national federations. Most reactions were encouraging, but he still needed to find someone to provide the financial assistance for the project. Ernst Thommen, Managing Director of the Swiss Football Pool, volunteered for this task, on condition that Rappan received official UEFA approval. However, the European body didn't like this idea at first, because the games would only be played as an excuse for gambling. Anyway, since UEFA wouldn't have to organize this "parallel" European League, they granted their approval in 1961, and the first games of the International Football Cup or Intertoto Cup (as it became to be known) were played.
In its first editions, from 1961 to 1966, the participants were distributed in groups. After playing a round robin, only winners accessed a play-off, which lead to a final winner of the tournament. In 1967, the play-off was abandoned due to problems finding free competition dates, and teams played only for the sake of betting. This way, unlike the rest of official European competitions of the 60s (Champions Cup, Cup Winners' Cup, Fairs Cup), Intertoto Cup became an "improper" continental tournament, since teams didn't really participate to win a trophy and there was no final champion: they only played for money. That's the reason why UEFA didn't support this competition originally. Later, times would change...
After a few years of relative success, Intertoto Cup soon degenerated into a summer practice only profitable for middle ranked teams from the north, middle, and east of Europe. As the official UEFA competitions gained more and more interest, Intertoto Cup was relegated to the background and his original pan-European goal fell into oblivion. However, in the summer of 1995, UEFA decided to assume the organization of this tournament and gave it an official status, parallel to Champions League, Cup Winners' Cup, and UEFA Cup. Thus, the New Intertoto Cup was brought forth as a new European competition with full sport sense (offering of trophies included). From then on, the champions of this summer tournament would received a "wild card" to participate in UEFA Cup. The assignment of berths was also systematized, so that only top ranked teams in domestic Leagues (not qualified for any other European competition) could participate in Intertoto Cup, and the number of clubs that each country could register depended on its position in UEFA Country Ranking (UCR).
In the first official editions of Intertoto Cup, 1995, 1996, and 1997, a similar competition system was used: 60 participants are divided into 12 groups of 5 each, and after a single game round robin the champions access a series of knock-out rounds leading to the Intertoto Cup finals. The winners receive an extra berth in the First Round of UEFA Cup. In 1998, the competition is re-shaped. Countries can "freely" register their participants (as many as two teams in the case of top ranked federations in UCR), but later a special Intertoto Cup Committee assigns the 60 berths. As a general principle, only the next clubs are eligible for Intertoto Cup: a) Countries entitled 2 berths: teams down to place 12 in domestic League; b) Countries entitled 1 berth: teams down to place 8 in domestic League. Intertoto Cup also becomes a knock-out tournament, with successive rounds, in order to reduce the number of games, and top seeded teams (from countries ranked higher in UCR) are bye from the first rounds. Six teams reach the Intertoto Finals, and the three winners receive a "wild card" to participate in UEFA Cup.
The competition system of Intertoto Cup (from 1998 on) is as follows:
FIRST ROUND (40 teams): 16 seeded teams and 24 non-seeded teams. The former are paired with another 16 of the latter, and the remaining 8 non-seeded teams are paired with each other.
SECOND ROUND (32 teams): The 20 winners of First Round join 12 bye teams and a new seeding applies, so that the new group is divided in 12 seeded teams and 20 non-seeded teams. The former are paired with another 12 of the latter, and the remaining 8 non-seeded teams are paired with each other.
THIRD ROUND (24 teams): The 16 winners of Second Round join 8 bye teams and a new seeding applies, so that the new group is divided in 8 seeded teams and 16 non-seeded teams. The former are paired with another 8 of the latter, and the remaining 8 non-seeded teams are paired with each other.
SEMIFINALS (12 teams): The 12 winners of the previous round.
FINALS (6 teams): The 6 winners of the previous round. Champions receive a "wild card" to participate in UEFA Cup.
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