The UEFA Champions League was formed in 1992 but is based upon a competition that has run annually since 1955. Formerly known as the European Champions Cup or simply the European Cup the competition is run by UEFA, the European governing body for Association Football.
Considered to be the premier club tournament in the world the Champions League is the pinnacle of club football in Europe. The final of the Champions League is one of the most televised sporting events across the world, in recent years audiences have reached 213 Million.
Prior to the competitions restructure in 1992, the European Champions Cup was a knockout format competition with only the champions from each European League allowed entry. However, with the rebranding of the competition can a new format to the competition where the top four finalists in the strongest leagues in Europe would compete in a series of mini-leagues before moving on to a knockout competition. This new format proved to be huge hit with television audiences and television revenue from the Champions League became enormous, and tendering for the rights to show the games live became highly competitive.
Prior to this early group stage there is a series of qualifying rounds held in the more tradition knockout format for teams from weaker leagues or who finished lower in their own league. The 10 teams that survive this stage are then entered into the group stages with those teams who did not have to qualify.
The final of the Champions league is one of the most anticipated sporting events and is heavily televised and sponsored, much like the American Super Bowl.