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The UEFA Champions League (usually referred to as simply the Champions League or historically as the European Cup) is an annual Association football cup competition organised by UEFA since 1955 for the top football clubs in Europe. It is the most prestigious club trophy in European football.

Prior to 1992 the tournament was officially called the European Champion Clubs' Cup but was usually referred to as simply the European Cup or European Champions' Cup. The competition was initially a straight knockout competition open only to the champion club of each country. During the 1990s the tournament began to be expanded, incorporating a round-robin group phase and more teams. Europe's strongest national leagues now provide up to four teams each for the competition. The UEFA Champions League should not be confused with the UEFA Europa League, formerly known as the UEFA Cup.

The tournament consists of several stages. In the present format it begins in mid-July with three knockout qualifying rounds. The 16 surviving teams join 16 seeded teams in the group stage, in which there are eight groups consisting of four teams each. The eight group winners and eight runners-up enter the final knockout phase, which ends with the final match in May.

The title has been won by 21 different clubs, 12 of which have won the title more than once. The all-time record-holders are Real Madrid, who have won the competition nine times, including the first five seasons it was contested. Barcelona are the current champions. Since the tournament changed name and structure in 1992, no club has managed consecutive wins.

History

The tournament was inaugurated in 1955, at the suggestion of the French sports journalist and editor of L'Équipe Gabriel Hanot, as a reaction to a declaration on the part of Wolverhampton Wanderers as being "Champions of the World" by the British press, after a successful run of European friendlies in the 1950s. The tournament was conceived as a continental competition for winners of the European national football leagues, as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, abbreviated to European Cup.

The competition began as the 1955–56 using a two-leg knockout format where the teams would play two matches, one at home and one away, and the team with the highest overall score qualifying for the next round of the competition. Until 1992, entry was restricted to the teams that won their national league championships, plus the current European Cup holder. In the 1992–93 season, the format was changed to include a group stage and the tournament was renamed the UEFA Champions League. There have since been numerous changes to eligibility for the competition, the number of qualifying rounds and the group structure. In 1997–98, eligibility was expanded to include the runners-up from some countries according to UEFA's coefficient ranking list. The qualification system has been restructured so that national champions from lower ranked countries have to take part in one or more qualifying rounds before the group stages, while runners-up from higher ranked countries enter in later rounds. Up to four clubs from the top-ranked countries are currently given entry to the competition.

Between 1960 and 2004, the winner of the tournament qualified for the now defunct Intercontinental Cup against the winner of the Copa Libertadores of South America. Since then, the winner automatically qualifies for the FIFAmarker-organised Club World Cup with other winners of continental club championships.

Format

Qualification

As of 2009, the UEFA Champions League commences with a round-robin group stage of 32 teams, which is preceded by two qualification 'streams' for teams which do not receive direct entry to the tournament proper. The two streams are divided between teams which have qualified by virtue of being league champions, and those which have qualified by virtue of finishing 2nd-4th in their national championship.

The number of teams that each association enters into the UEFA Champions League is based upon the UEFA coefficients of the member associations. These coefficients are generated by the results of clubs representing each association during the previous five Champions League and UEFA Cup seasons. The higher an association's coefficient, the more teams which represent the association in the Champions League and the fewer qualification rounds that the association's teams must compete in.

The number of places in the competition is currently allocated as so:
  • associations ranked 1 to 3 have four positions,
  • associations ranked 4 to 6 have three positions,
  • associations ranked 7 to 15 have two positions,
  • associations ranked 16 or lower have one position.


Of these, 22 teams receive automatic qualification for the group stage, as follows:
  • 1st-3rd ranked teams of associations ranked 1 to 3
  • 1st-2nd ranked teams of associations ranked 4 to 6
  • 1st ranked team of associations ranked 7 to 12
  • Champions League holders or 1st ranked team of association ranked 13


The situation with holders of the Champions League has not always been clearly defined. There was controversy when Liverpool won the competition in 2004–05 but finished outside the top four in the FA Premier League. The Football Association ruled that Everton, who finished fourth in the Premier League, should get the final English place in the 2005–06 European Cup. UEFA came to an agreement that both Merseyside rivals would be allowed to enter the competition with Liverpool starting from the first qualifying round and Everton starting from the third qualifying round. This confusion resulted in the current ruling, whereby if the European Cup winners fail to finish in one of its national league's qualifying positions, it will take the place of the lowest placed team in its association. The superseded team will go to the UEFA Europa League.

5 of the remaining ten qualifying places are granted to the winners of a four round qualifying tournament between the remaining 39 or 38 national champions, within which those champions from associations with higher coefficients receive byes to later rounds. The other 5 are granted to the winners of a two round qualifying tournament between the 15 clubs from the associations ranked 1-15 which have qualified based upon finishing 2nd-4th in their national league.

In addition to sporting criteria, any club must be licensed by its national association to participate in the Champions league. To obtain a license, club must meet certain stadium, infrastructure and finance requirements.

In 2005-06, Liverpool and Artmedia Bratislava of Slovakiamarker became the first teams to reach the Champions League group phase after playing in all three qualifying rounds. In 2008-09, both BATE and Anorthosis Famagusta achieved the same feat. Barcelona, Manchester United, and Porto are the teams that have appeared most often in the group stage: fourteen times each. FC Porto have only won the tournament once since the establishment of the group stage (2004), Manchester United (1999 and 2008) and Barcelona (2006 and 2009) have both won it twice.

Between 2003 and 2008, no differentiation was made between champions and non-champions in qualification. The sixteen top ranked teams spread across the biggest domestic leagues qualified directly for the tournament group stage. Prior to this, three preliminary knockout qualifying rounds whittled down the remaining teams, with different teams starting in different rounds.

Tournament

The tournament proper begins with a group stage of 32 teams, divided into 8 groups. Seeding is used whilst making the draw for this stage, whilst teams from the same country may not be drawn into groups together. Each team meets the others in its group home and away in a round-robin format. The top two teams from each group progress to the round of 16, which commences the knock-out tournament. The third team enters the Europa League.

For this stage, one group's winners play against another group's runners-up, and teams from the same country may not be drawn against each other. From the quarter-finals onwards, the draw is entirely random, with country protection no longer in force.

The group stage is played through the autumn, whilst the knock-out stage starts after a winter break. The knock-out ties are played in a two-legged format, with the exception of the final. This is typically held in the final two weeks of May.

Prize money

UEFA awards €3 million to each team that qualifies for the UEFA Champions League, plus €2.4 million for participating in the Group stage. A Group stage win is worth €600,000 and a draw is worth €300,000.

In addition, UEFA pays each quarter finalist €2.5 million, €3 million for each semi-finalist, €4 million for the runners-up and €7 million for the winners.

A large part of the distributed revenue from the UEFA Champions League is linked to the "market pool", the distribution of which is determined by the value of the television market in each country. For the 2008-09 season, both Manchester United and Bayern Munich, who reached the final and quarter-final respectively, earned more than Barcelona, who won the tournament.

Sponsorship

Like the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League is sponsored by a group of multinational corporations, in contrast to the single main sponsor of the Barclays Premier League, the Ligue 1 or Serie A TIM. When the Champions League was created in 1992, it was decided that a maximum of eight companies should be allowed to sponsor the event, with each corporation being allocated four advertising boards around the perimeter of the pitch, as well as logo placement at pre- and post-match interviews and a certain number of tickets to each match. This, combined with a deal to ensure tournament sponsors were given priority on television advertisements during matches, ensured that each of the tournament's main sponsors was given maximum exposure.

The advertising boards are a source of criticism, due to their larger size compared to those in other leagues such as the Premier League. Their larger size means that, at some grounds, such as Old Traffordmarker, Anfieldmarker, and Stamford Bridgemarker, the front rows of seating cannot be used as their views of the pitch are blocked by the extreme size of the boards; accordingly, some season ticket holders are not guaranteed tickets for games and have to sit in seats other than their usual ones for games. Additionally, some stadia use the flat area in front of the front rows of seating for wheelchairs and disabled seating, so the boards drastically reduce these grounds' disabled supporter capacity.



The tournament's current main sponsors are:
  • Ford
  • Heineken (excluding Norway, France, Switzerland and Russia, where alcohol sponsorship is restricted. In Norway the Heineken adboard is replaced by a chalk art picture adboard, In France and Switzerland the Heineken adboard is replaced by a "Star Experience" adboard and in Russia the Heineken adboard is replaced by a "No To Racism" adboard)
  • MasterCard
  • Sony
  • UniCredit


Adidas is a secondary sponsor and supplies the official match ball, as they do for all other UEFA competitions.Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer is also a secondary sponsor as the official Champions League video game.

Individual clubs may wear uniforms with advertising, even if such sponsors conflict with those of the Champions League. However, only one sponsorship is permitted per uniform (plus that of the manufacturer), and if clubs play a match in a country where the relevant sponsorship category is restricted (such as the case of France, alcohol, and betting), then they must remove that logo from their uniforms.

Alcohol sponsorship

Teams may be forced to remove alcohol sponsorship logos from their kits if they travel to a country with sponsorship restrictions.

For example, when Liverpool played away to Lyon, Liverpool was forced to remove Carlsberg from their kits, as France, including state sponsors, restrict such sponsorships. Other cases occurring in France, Switzerland, Norway, and Russia, the Heineken adboard is replaced with "Star Experience" in France and Switzerland, with a chalk art picture in Norway, and "Say No To Racism" in Russia.

Media coverage

The competition attracts a huge television audience, not just in Europe, but throughout the world. The matches are broadcast in over 70 countries in more than 40 languages each year, and some important matches can attract over 200 million TV audience, often considered as one of the most watched sports events on TV.

Records and statistics

References

  1. Europe's top clubs earn €38.45m from Champions League, research says


External links




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