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What we know about Aberdeen’s European tour – transformative financial rewards, draw dates, potential play-off and group stage opponents

The Dons are guaranteed to be in the group stage of either the Europa League (via the play-off round) or the Europa Conference League.

Aberdeen's Angus MacDonald celebrating after the Dons guaranteed European football.  Image: SNS.
Aberdeen's Angus MacDonald celebrating after the Dons guaranteed European football. Image: SNS.

Aberdeen’s participation in lucrative European group stage football next season is secure – and here’s everything we know so far.

Having finished third in the Premiership, the Dons – and the excited Red Army – were already safe in the knowledge the club had secured continental action of some description next term.

However, Celtic’s win in the Scottish Cup final against Caley Thistle confirmed Aberdeen have European group stage action to look forward to for the first time since 2007/08.

It was vital Premiership champions Celtic won the Scottish Cup final, as the Hoops had already secured Champions League football next season due to their league success, and this meant a place in the Europa League play-off qualifying round passed to the league’s third-best side – the Dons.

Had Championship Caley Thistle upset the odds to win the Scottish Cup, they would have taken the Europa League play-off round spot, and Aberdeen would have entered the qualifiers a round earlier.

The Derek McInnes years showed the Reds just how tricky it can be to reach the groups from a starting point before the play-offs.

However, it all worked out for Aberdeen, they are in the play-off round – and just one two-legged tie from the groups.

It will be a challenging tie for Barry Robson’s men, no question. But – crucially – win or lose, the financial, footballing and fan benefits remain massive.

Should they qualify for the Europa League groups, the Dons are guaranteed a £5 million-plus windfall and supporters get several continental away trips (and boisterous Pittodrie European nights) in the first half of next season.

However, lose their play-off showdown, and they will drop into the Europa Conference League group stage, land a financial boost which is still potentially transformative – and the European experiences to go with it.

Multi-million-pound Uefa payments

Firstly, the rewards for securing the Europa League play-off spot berth – and the group stage football in one of the competitions it guarantees – have the potential to be game-changing for Aberdeen.

Qualifying for the Europa League group stages brings a Uefa prize payment of £3.15 million (€3.63 million).

A win in the Europa League groups is rewarded with a £550,000 (€0.63 million) payment and a draw is £180,000 (€0.21 million).

Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie celebrates making it 2-0 against St Mirren - the win which secured Europe.
Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie celebrates making it 2-0 against St Mirren – the win which secured Europe. Image: SNS

There is also a split of the coefficient ranking payments, which last season came to £308,000 per club.

A share of the broadcast revenue pool will also secure in excess of £1 million.

Lose the Europa League play-off and there is the golden parachute of dropping into the Conference League group stage, which still brings similar multi-million-pound rewards.

The figures are slightly reduced, but Conference League group stage qualification secures £2.55 million, while each wins pays £430,000, with £140,000 for a draw.

The split of the coefficient ranking payments and broadcast revenue are the same as for the Europa League.

When you add in the fact Aberdeen have already secured an increased SPFL prize payment on last term for finishing third in the Premiership, rather than fourth, as well as the increased commercial opportunities Europe brings in terms of ticket sales (including the knock-on effect on season tickets) and merchandise sales, the overall cash boost is huge.

It is understood Aberdeen hope to secure around £8/9 million as a result of their third place finish and European campaign.

Spend money like that well, and it could have a big bearing on their footballing fortunes domestically – especially if they use next season’s European group qualification as a launchpad for doing it again and again.

Fans and players at Pittodrie stadium.
Pittodrie is set to be bouncing for European nights next season. Image: Shutterstock

When is the draw for the Europa League play-off round?

The draw for the Europa League play-offs is Monday, August 7, with ties to be played on Thursday, August 24 and Thursday, August 31.

Who will Aberdeen meet in the play-off round?

That’s a much more complicated question, and we will only really know the true lie of the land as the earlier rounds of Europa League qualifying progress.

Let’s keep this as simple as possible…

The Dons are in the priority one section of the play-off round draw with Dutch giants Ajax (Netherlands), LASK (Austria), Union SG (Belgium), Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine) and Cukaricki (Serbia) – meaning they cannot draw these sides.

These six clubs, including Aberdeen, will all be drawn against a team from either the priority four pot (which will contain three teams) or the priority three pot (five teams) in the play-off round.

Only one club has actually been confirmed as being in the priority three or four pots at this stage – Swiss third-place finishers Lugano are in pot four, and they are a side the Dons could definitely be drawn against in the play-off round.

Swiss side Lugano.
Swiss side Lugano. Image: Shutterstock

Olympiacos (Greece) and Czech side Slavia Prague are seeded in the “main” path for third qualifying round (entering at this stage due to their nations’ respective coefficients/qualifying spots) so are likely to be the other two clubs to make up the rest of the priority four pot, and therefore become potential play-off opponents for the Reds – perhaps the most-challenging opponents they could be drawn against.

None of the five priority three pot sides are known for sure at this point, but will all come into the play-off round via the third qualifying round. These sides will have followed the “champions” path, which means they will all be teams who have exited the Champions League at the second qualifying round stage, before dropping into the Europa League third qualifying stage and winning through to the play-offs.

See – complex.

However, the five teams currently rated as most likely to make up the priority three pot – and therefore potentially meet the Dons – are Astana (Kazakhstan), Maccabi Haifa (Israel), Zalgiris Vilnius (Lithuania), HJK Helsinki (Finland) and Flora Tallinn (Estonia).

Whether sides play home or away first in the play-off round will be determined by the draw i.e. which name is pulled from the proverbial hat first.

A note about the draw – three priority one teams will be drawn against the three teams from the priority four pot first, before the remaining three priority one teams are drawn against three of the five sides from the priority three pot.

When will the Europa League/Europa Conference League groups be drawn and games played?

The draw for the group stages of both the Europa League and Europa Conference League will take place on September 1.

Who could Aberdeen face in groups of both competitions?

Groups in both tournaments are comprised of four teams, and should Aberdeen get through their Europa League play-off qualifier, sides already confirmed as being in the Europa League groups include English Premier League sides Liverpool and Brighton, Spain’s Villareal and Real Betis, Atalanta and beaten 2022/23 finalists Roma, of Italy, German outfits Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen, French teams Rennes and Toulouse, and Sporting of Portugal.

Liverpool's Mo Salah on the pitch.
Liverpool could be in Aberdeen’s Europa League group, if the Dons get through. Image: Shutterstock.

In total, 10 teams will enter the groups from the play-off round, and 10 more will also drop in from Champions League qualifying – so expect more big names.

Aberdeen look set to be in pot four for the group stage draw, and will therefore be drawn in a pool with three teams rated as being “stronger” than them.

Should the Reds lose their play-off and shot at the Europa League groups, and instead find themselves in the Conference League groups, it is less clear who they will face.

No teams qualify for the Conference League groups automatically, and instead come through qualifying or by dropping down from the Europa League play-off round.

However, clubs confirmed as already being seeded for the Conference League’s own play-off round, and therefore likely to make the groups, include Juventus (Italy), Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany) and Lille (France), with English side Aston Villa also involved in the play-off round (though Villa are not yet confirmed as seeded).

Aberdeen are likely to be in pot four for the Conference League group draw as well.

Juventus players in action.
Juventus look likely to make the Europa Conference League groups. Image: Shutterstock.

The group stage matches for both competitions begin on Thursday September 21, and there are further games on October 5, October 26, November 9, November 30 and December 14 – all Thursdays – with teams playing each other home and away.

So – however Aberdeen get on in Europe – the Dons players, coaching staff and supporters are guaranteed at least eight matches in continental competition next season.