What is the UEFA Champions League?
UEFA stands for Union of European Football Associations, the governing body for the association of football in the European continent. The UEFA Champions League (abbreviated as UCL) is the club football championship of Europe. Therefore, it is the most prestigious football competition in the world other than the World Cup and the most prestigious club competition in European football. It comprises all the top-tier European clubs. It’s played by the champions and sometimes runners-up of various European football leagues, all of which are among the strongest UEFA national associations.
- It is organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and contested by top-division European clubs for the right to be crowned European champions.
It is the most-watched sporting event worldwide. It has an impressive 360 million viewers and counting.
Also, strangely, it’s not a league but a tournament. But before we explain more, let’s cover a little history.
The tournament began in 1955 with 16 sides taking part. Then it was called the European Cup. It changed into the Champions League in 1992 and has expanded over the years, with 79 clubs entering in 2019/20. It was initially a straight knockout tournament open only to the champions of Europe’s domestic leagues.
FIFA governs world football.
FIFA organizes the world of football. It is divided into regions.
Champions League is the third for UEFA, the European region of FIFA. Within each area, there are three big competitions:
- A tournament for clubs within that region. It is held each year.
- A qualifying tournament to send some countries to the World Cup every four years.
- A nation vs nation tournament for the regional championship
Who Qualifies for the Champions League?
In the old days, clubs just had to win their national league. Now, the smaller countries based on some mysterious FIFA system all get one entry, and the more prominent nations get several.
Currently, the UEFA Champions League begins in mid of July with three knockout qualifying rounds, followed by a playoff round over two legs. Then a playoff occurs before 32 teams begin the group stage starting in September. Then, the ten surviving teams enter the Champions League group stage. It is already joined by the 22 others that qualified in advance. Next, the 32 teams are drawn into eight groups of four. And then they battle it out for survival.
The top two sides in each group move on to the round of 16 and the start of the knockout phase, while the third-placed team drops into the UEFA European League.
In the round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals are played over two legs, home and away. A stadium hosts the final. Selection is almost two years in advance.
Structure of the Champions League
The four English teams enter the first prime phase of the competition, the Group Stage. Here, 32 clubs are divided into eight groups of four. They all play the rest of their group twice, once at each stadium from September to December. They get three points for a win and one for a draw. These matches generally happen on Tuesday and Wednesday nights since the national leagues usually play on weekends. Hence, these matches are referred to as “European nights.
When the group stages are over, the top two from each group, the eight group winners, and eight runners-up proceed to the knockout phase. That all leads to one final match in May. The winner of the Champions League qualifies for the following year’s Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup. The exception is that, at this stage, no two teams from the same country will be drawn against each other.
Top Performer clubs
Over the years, one team has performed more in the competition than any other. And that is Real Madrid. Real Madrid has won 12 UEFA Champions League titles.
Italian football club Milan has also done well. It won seven times.
Like other champion leagues, the best players in the world usually dominate the football tournament in the universe.
- Cristiano Renaldo is the all-time leading scorer. He has netted 111 goals playing for Manchester United and Real Madrid.
- Lionel Messy is number two on the list. He is the greatest all-around soccer player of his generation.
Top four Premier League clubs in the 2020-21 Champions League
There are top-four Premier League clubs for each season in advance to the next season’s Champions League.
In the 2020-21 Premier League season, the top four clubs were:
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
The winning team is awarded European Champion Clubs’ Cup. That has been awarded since 1967. In addition, a team that wins the Champions League five times in total or three years in a row has the right to keep a replica of the trophy in their stadium.
Only six clubs have earned a replica:
- Bayern Munich
- Real Madrid
Club earning the money
Hundreds of millions are paid to the clubs playing in the Champions League. In addition, they earn large amounts of money through contracts for advertising the products worldwide.
Sponsorship for UEFA Champions League
There happens a bid to be able to sponsor the event. A maximum of eight companies is allowed for sponsorship per tournament. Multinational corporations mostly sponsor the UEFA Champions League. When they become able to sponsor the event, their logos are seen everywhere on the stadium rafters and players’ uniforms. The Champions League becomes a gold mine to grow the business for commercial purposes. So, becoming a sponsor of the Champions League is also tricky.
This event covers the entire world. There is a significant audience for this championship in almost every country on Earth. The final is watched by over 300 million viewers worldwide.
How to watch the 2021-22 Champions League on TV and live stream in India
In India, you can watch the 2021-22 Champions League on Sony TV, as the Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN) has the right to air UEFA Champions League matches in India. Matches are available on the SonyLiv app and website.
Also, you can watch it on JioTV mobile app.