The UEFA Champions League is Europe’s premier club competition and was launched a month after the UEFA had their first Congress that was in Vienna on 2nd March 1955. And for some reason the European Cup was not a UEFA initiative.
Many of the UEFA’s founders were more concerned with forming a national team competition, and it was only the French sports daily L’Equipe and the Editor at that time Gabriel Hanot were trying to establish a cause for a European wide club competition.
With the help of Jacques Ferran the two came up with the basics for a challenge tournament to be played on Wednesdays under floodlights. This tournament was introduced by L’Equipe and it didn’t say that you had to be a champion of their country, but they invited clubs of which they thought had the most fan appeal.
So the 16 clubs representatives met on the 2nd and 3rd April 1955 and the rules set out by L’Equipe were approved. The first match of the European Cup was between Sporting Clube de Portugal and FK Partizan in Lisbon. Sporting Clube de Portugal were held to a 3-3 draw the return leg in Belgrade saw FK Partizan go through to the next round with a 5-2 win.
In the early days there was only one club that made the tournament their own, and that was Real Madrid winning the first five finals. As the years past other clubs had a run of good luck in the competition, with AFC Ajax and FC Bayern Munchen both, winning three finals in a row. But no club has totally dominated the club long-term.
For it took 22 years for Ajax to win their fourth title to add to the three in the early 1970s; Madrid took 32 years for them to win the title in 1998; and Bayern Munchen won in 2001 from a penalty shoot-out in Milan was the end of a 26 year wait for their fourth success. And Liverpool has won the trophy four times between 1977 and 1984.
The tournament changed format in the 1992-93 season when the UEFA Champions League added a group phase as well as keeping the knock-out stages. It was officially used in the pilot group stage in the previous season. The competition has grown from eight to thirty-two teams and matches take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays all over Europe.