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UEFA is the governing body of European football and is by far the most lucrative and most watched of all the 6 confederations of FIFA. UEFA’s influence over the world of football is unprecedented and in the last 20 years its success has magnified beyond all expectations. The UEFA Champions League is universally regarded to be the ultimate competition in club football and generates money of unimaginable proportions.
UEFA has some of the most successful national sides in the world including 4 World Cup Winners; Italy (4), Germany (3 – all as West Germany), England (1) and France (1). Owing to the success of the national teams in Europe, UEFA has the most entrants into the FIFA World Cup finals;
- during the years when the finals included 16 nations, EUFA had between 8 and 12 entrants (between half and three-quarters)
- the 4 instances with 24 nations saw EUFA get between 12 and 13 entrants (at least half)
- and now the competition has 32 teams in the finals, between 13 and 14 of them have been from UEFA (13 for the forthcoming South Africa 2010).
The proportion of European teams has been reduced to help the growth of football around the world, but UEFA still gets more than double the amount of entrants than any other federation.
In Basle, Switzerland, back in the summer of 1954 (when most of us were barely even twinkles in our dad’s eyes), the football associations of Belgium, France and Italy formed the Union des Associations Européennes de Football and set up headquarters in Paris, France. Five years later, the headquarters moved to Bern, Switzerland and then in 1995 it moved to it’s current location of Nyon, Switzerland.
Plans had been formulating for a few years to form the European footballing body, with Italian FA head, Dr Ottorino Barassi, pushing the idea forward. In 1953 FIFA decided that they wanted continental football confederations to help with the running of world football, each focussing on the nations and FA’s in their continent. Little did anyone know at the time, just how successful UEFA would go on to be.
In English it is known as the Union of European Football Associations and it is headed by French goalscoring legend Michel Platini.
UEFA contains a number of nations that would be expected to be in the Asian federation, such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia and Israel, but choose to ply their trade in UEFA for religious, political and financial reasons.
UEFA’s national tournament is the European Championships, which take place every four years on the middle year between FIFA World Cups. The tournament began in 1960, being called the European Nations Cup for the first 2 instances and for the first 20 years the finals just involved 4 teams. It then doubled in 1980 to 8 teams and from the ’96 competition doubled again to 16. Plans are in place to increase it to 24 teams from 2016.
The most successful team in the competition with 3 wins is Germany, 2 of which came as West Germany.
The club teams of UEFA can qualify for one of two main competitions, the elite of which is the UEFA Champions League. The secondary cup is currently known as the UEFA Cup, but from the 2009/10 season, it will become the Europa League, as part of a rebranding and re-organising bid to increase its profile.
The UEFA Champions League is commercially the largest club competition in the world and the television rights for it are sold for millions all over the globe. Matches are broadcast on over 110 channels worldwide, in over 80 countries, a large amount of which are not in Europe, so the scope of the competition is astounding.
All this glory was never even dreamt of when the competition was originally formed and, believe it or not, it is the brainchild of a French newspaper! The competition was planned as a floodlit Wednesday night affair, a tradition which has largely stuck, but was not originally just for nation’s champions, instead being invite only, based on commercial pull and fan support.
Originally known as the European Cup (well, European Champion Clubs’ Cup officially) from its inception back in 1955, it changed to its current format in 1992. The competition’s popularity has magnified since the redevelopment and the teams compete to win not just the trophy but also the huge sums of money that are available. The winning team can net over £50m in prize money and can double that figure with television and sponsorship deals. The amounts of money in total generated by the competition are utterly obscene and has heavily conributed to the madness we now see in the world of football, such as Man City’s infamous Kaka bid.
The Champions League runs annually from July through May and from next season on will have some changes to the format, mostly to allow the champions of the lesser nations better access to the group stages, and also the final will now take place on a Saturday evening instead of a Wednesday.
The most successful club in the history of the competition is Real Madrid, with 9 titles (including the first 5 years of the competition), followed by AC Milan with 7 and Liverpool with 5. Aston Villa won the competition in 1982. Since becoming the Champions League, the most successful teams in the competition are the same; Real Madrid and AC Milan (3 wins each).
The secondary competition for European club sides is the UEFA Cup, which will become the Europa League from next season. The competition will change fairly significantly in a bid to promote it further, the group stage changing from it’s present format where teams only play each other once, to a home and away tie, with groups of 4 instead of 5.
Originally the final was a two-legged affair, the first ever final taking place in the very unglamourous location of Wolverhampton. The tournament recovered from these unfortunate beginnings to become a well respected and competed competition from 1972 to 2009.
UEFA Member Nations
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Republic of Ireland
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