European Cup History

The first trans-national football competition ever held in Europe was the Challenge Cup, a football tournament organised between the various clubs in the massive Austro-Hungarian empires. The Challenge Cup was first played in 1897, and ran until 1911 when political and social changes in Europe brought the competition to an end.

The idea of a European club competition was resurrected following the end of the World War I, when the change to professionalism in European football saw Balkan clubs embrace the idea of an international club competition that would help them build up their financial reserves.

The first Mitropa Cup was contested by several Eastern European countries for the first time in 1927. Three years later, Swiss football bosses hit on the idea of having the champions of the various European domestic leagues contest a European competition. Despite the relative underdevelopment of the mass media, the Coup des Nations proved to be very popular and was won by a Hungarian club.

Despite the popularity of the Coup des Nations, problems with the logistics of pan-European travel and media coverage made the tournament financially unviable. Before the European club bosses were able to hit on a more practical application of their ideas Europe was drawn into its second major war, leading to an abandonment of all but the most fervently supported domestic leagues.

Following the Second World War, the Latin countries in Europe met to establish their own competition that would pit the best teams in Portugal, Spain, Italy and France against one another. The Copa Latina served as a template for the Champions League in that it pitted the national champions of these various countries against one another in a finale to the European football season.

It was only with the foundation of UEFA in 1954 that the type of coordination and centralised planning required to successfully host a major European competition in European Cup history became possible. Following their creation, UEFA wasted no time in setting up a number of major European club football competitions including the Inter Cities Fairs Cup and the European Cup.

Whilst the creation of UEFA marked the beginning of pan-European competition as a commercially and logistically viable venture, several other European club competitions continued for a number of years in European Cup history, including the Mitropa Cup, played for the final time in 1992, and the Latin Cup which ran until 1957.