|Current:||2008–09 Champions League|
|Founded:||1955 (1992 in its current format)|
|Number Of Teams:||32 (group stage)|
76 or 77 (total)
|Current Champions:||Manchester United (3)|
|Most Successful Club:||Real Madrid (9)|
|Broadcasters:||List of broadcasters|
|Song:||Champions League Hymn|
The UEFA Champions League, which evolved from the European Champion Clubs' Cup, is a seasonal club football competition organised by UEFA since 1992 (or overall in its older format since 1955) for the most successful football clubs in Europe. The trophy, the European Champion Clubs' Cup (more commonly known as the European Cup), is the most prestigious club trophy in the sport. The UEFA Champions League is separate from 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. Previously, only the champions of each national league could participate in the competition; however, this was changed in 1997 to allow the runners-up of the stronger leagues to compete as well.
The title has been held by 21 different clubs, 12 of which have won the title more than once. The all-time record-holder is Real Madrid, who have won the competition nine times. As of 2009, no club has retained the Cup under the Champions League format (since 1993).
See main article: European Cup and Champions League history.
See also: List of European Cup and UEFA Champions League winners. The tournament was inaugurated in 1955, at the suggestion of the French sports journalist and editor of L'Équipe Gabriel Hanot, 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 FIFA-organised Club World Cup with other winners of continental club championships.
See also: UEFA coefficients. Teams that finish 1st to 4th in the strongest leagues go to the qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.
The number of places in the competition depends on the association's rank in the UEFA coefficients table:
An association's rank also determines the stage at which the clubs enter the competition. For example, the three highest-ranked associations have two places in the group stage (for champions and runners-up) and two in the third qualifying round (for third and fourth-placed teams), whereas the lowest-ranked associations have only one place in the first qualifying round for their champions. Nine highest-ranked associations have at least one automatic place in the group stage.The situation with the European Cup holders has not 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. UEFA's current rule is that 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 league. The superseded team will go to the UEFA Cup.
In 2005-06, Liverpool and Artmedia Bratislava of Slovakia 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 FC achieved the same feat.
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.
FC Barcelona, Manchester United, and FC Porto are the teams that have appeared most often in the group stages: fifteen each. FC Porto and Barcelona have only won the tournament once each since the establishment of the Group stages (2004 and 2006 respectively), whilst Manchester United have won it twice in 1999 and 2008.
The tournament consists of several stages and begins with three preliminary knockout qualifying rounds. Different teams start in different rounds, according to their position in domestic league and the UEFA coefficients of their league, while the sixteen top ranked teams spread across the biggest domestic leagues qualify directly. The current system was adopted in 2003.
The main focus of the changes was to enable champions coming from associations ranked 13 to 53 much easier access to the main tournament through a separate qualifying route, rather than going head-to-head with non-champions from associations ranked 1 to 12. Five teams will enter into the group stage from each new route.
22 teams will now directly qualify for the group stage, the additional 6 teams being champions of associations ranked 10 to 12, and 3rd placed teams in associations ranked 1 to 3. It was also decided that the final would be played on the Saturday evening in calendar week 20 (20:45 CET) from 2009 - 10 onwards, instead of the Wednesday evening.
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. 
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 either the Barclays Premier League, the Ligue 1 Orange 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 thats at some grounds such as Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge, the front rows of seating can't be used as their views of the pitch are blocked by the extreme size of the boards, meaning some season ticket holders aren't guaranteed tickets for games and have to sit elsewhere to their usual seats for games. Also some stadia use the flat area in front of the front rows of seating for wheelchairs and disabled seating, the boards, drastically reducing the grounds' disabled supporter capacity.
The tournament's current main sponsors are:
Adidas is a secondary sponsor and supplies the official match ball, as they do for all other UEFA competitions (excluding the UEFA Cup).
See main article: List of UEFA Champions League broadcasters.
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.
See main article: European Cup and Champions League records and statistics.
|Team||Won||Runner Up||Years Won||Years Runner Up|
|Real Madrid||9||3||(1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002)||(1962, 1964, 1981)|
|Milan||7||4||(1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)||(1958, 1993, 1995, 2005)|
|Liverpool||5||2||(1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005)||(1985, 2007)|
|Bayern Munich||4||3||(1974, 1975, 1976, 2001)||(1982, 1987, 1999)|
|Ajax||4||2||(1971, 1972, 1973, 1995)||(1969, 1996)|
|Manchester United||3||0||(1968, 1999, 2008)||-|
|Benfica||2||5||(1961, 1962)||(1963, 1965, 1968, 1988, 1990)|
|Juventus||2||5||(1985, 1996)||(1973, 1983, 1997, 1998, 2003)|
|Barcelona||2||3||(1992, 2006)||(1961, 1986, 1994)|
|Internazionale||2||2||(1964, 1965)||(1967, 1972)|
|Nottingham Forest||2||0||(1979, 1980)||-|
|Red Star Belgrade||1||0||(1991)||-|
|Stade Reims||0||2||-||(1956, 1959)|
|width=3%||Nation||width=1%||Times won||width=1%||Times runner-up||width=9%||Winning clubs||width=9%||Runners-up|
|Italy||11||14||Milan (7), Juventus (2), Internazionale (2)||Juventus (5), Milan (4), Internazionale (2), Fiorentina (1), Roma (1), Sampdoria (1)|
|Spain||11||9||Real Madrid (9), Barcelona (2)||Real Madrid (3), Barcelona (3), Valencia (2), Atlético Madrid (1)|
|England||11||5||Liverpool (5), Manchester United (3), Nottingham Forest (2), Aston Villa (1)||Liverpool (2), Leeds United (1), Arsenal (1), Chelsea (1)|
|Germany||6||7||Bayern Munich (4), Borussia Dortmund (1), Hamburg (1)||Bayern Munich (3), Bayer Leverkusen (1), Borussia Mönchengladbach (1), Eintracht Frankfurt (1), Hamburg (1)|
|Netherlands||6||2||Ajax (4), PSV (1), Feyenoord (1)||Ajax (2)|
|Portugal||4||5||Benfica (2), Porto (2)||Benfica (5)|
|France||1||5||Marseille (1)||Stade Reims (2), Saint-Étienne (1), Marseille (1), Monaco (1),|
|Romania||1||1||Steaua (1)||Steaua (1)|
|SFR Yugoslavia||1||1||Red Star Belgrade (1)||Partizan (1)|
|Scotland||1||1||Celtic (1)||Celtic (1)|
|Sweden||0||1||Malmö FF (1)|
|Belgium||0||1||Club Brugge (1)|
Including qualifying games
Players in bold are still active.
|width=2%||Rank||width=4%||Nation||width=8%||Player||width=3%||Goals||width=3%||Games||width=3%||Goals/Games||width=8%||Debut in Europe||width=13%||Clubs|
|2||Ruud van Nistelrooy||60||79||0.76||1997||PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Real Madrid|
|3||Andriy Shevchenko||56||103||0.54||1994||Dynamo Kyiv, Milan, Chelsea|
|4||Alfredo di Stéfano||49||58||0.84||1955||Real Madrid|
|6||Filippo Inzaghi||46||75||0.61||1997||Juventus, Milan|
|7||Thierry Henry||46||115||0.4||1997||Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona|
|8||Alessandro Del Piero||43||83||0.51||1993||Juventus|
|2||Ryan Giggs||123||Manchester United|
|3||Roberto Carlos||120||Real Madrid, Fenerbahçe|
|4||Thierry Henry||115||Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona|
|5||Paul Scholes||112||Manchester United|