The Champions League as we know was created not too long ago – it is dating from 1991. However, the similar tournament had been established much earlier. It dates back to the middle of the 20’s century and was called the European Champions Cup.
The congress UEFA (the union of the European football organizations) that was held on March 2, 1955 had served as a starting point for establishing of a unified tournament between the European football clubs. However, the idea to create the tournament doesn’t belong to the European football association itself.
UEFA was founded in 1954 and it is one of six continental confederations entering into FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). From the very beginning it was generally involved in the organization of tournaments between the national teams.
However, the French journalist of the sports newspaper of the “L’ Equipe” Gabriel Hanot suggested creating a continental tournament in 1955 that would help to identify the strongest football clubs of the Old World. He would already represent the next day a possible concept of a new tournament for approval to UEFA.
The project was approved on May 8, 1955 at the meeting of FIFA Executive Committee in London. And the UEFA finally approved it on June 21, giving its consent to hold the tournament under its auspices.
Clubs had to play home and away matches, and based on a result of both meetings, the winners passed further into a next round, and the other one were eliminated from the fight for a Cup.
That version of well-known European tournament lacked a group stage. However, it had a very serious con – the tournament for weaker teams finished too quick, leaving literally no chance to compete with favorites in the tournament.
Football federations of 16 European countries were allowed to send by one team for the tournament.
Traditionally they were champions of national leagues. However some teams refused to participate in the tournament as it wasn’t considered as a worthy one and important. They basically didn’t want to spend its forces and time for it.
The other teams from the second, third, sometimes even the fourth positions in the championship would take part in the Cup instead of champions.
The first European Champions Cup was held in the season 1955/1956. The finals of the season saw a fierce clash between the French Reims and Real Madrid. That match ended in favor of the Whites with the score 4:3.
Real Madrid is the absolute champion by the number of victories in the European Champions Cup. They won the tournament six times in 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966. Liverpool and Milan have got by four victories.
The tournament officially changed its structure during the season 1992/1993. The list of teams-participants had consisted of 32 teams that were distributed on draw into 8 groups by 4 teams in each one.
The clubs taken the first two places in the group passed further and participate in the system of single elimination. And teams from the third place in a group progress to 1/16 finals of the Europa League – the European club tournament, the second event after the Champions League.
The debut season of the Champions League ended up with the victory of Marseille that had beaten Milan in the finals. The Spanish grandees Barcelona and Real Madrid are absolute leaders by the number of victories in the Champions League. They managed to win the tournament 5 times after the change of its format in 1991.
All teams-participants earn rewards in different sizes, and the winner of the tournament, according to the results can earn up to €15 million.
Champions League of UEFA is the most desired trophy for any European club.
The team that won it at least once forever leaves a mark in the history of football and considered one of the strongest clubs of the world.
The number of clubs in a draw depends on the points table of UEFA. The first three places in rating belong to Spain, Germany and England. Therefore these countries can send by four teams for the tournament.
The countries with positions between 4 and 6 – can send by 3 teams. Now it is France, Italy and Portugal.
Countries that have occupied positions from 7 to 15, can submit two clubs. Starting from 16th the only champions of these countries, basically a single club, can participate in the tournament.
Thus, there are 32 teams in a group stage that fight for getting into the playoffs.
The round of the playoffs starts every year in late winter and lasts until the end of spring. The finals of the main European cup is held in the end of a football season on a neutral field for both teams. Traditionally it is the end of May and the beginning of June.