The UEFA Champions League, which evolved from the European Champion Clubs' Cup, is a seasonal club football competition organized by UEFA since 1992 (or overall in its older format since 1955) for the most successful football clubs in
The tournament consists of several stages. In the present format it begins in mid-July with three preliminary knockout qualifying rounds. The 16 surviving teams join 16 seeded teams in a group stage. Eight group winners and eight runners-up enter the final knockout rounds, which end with the final match in May. Previously only the champions of their respective 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.
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 Copa Santander Libertadores 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 tournament's current main sponsors are: Ford, Heineken (excluding
The competition attracts a huge television audience, not just in
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