UEFA Champions League History

The history of the UEFA Champions League dates back to 1955, when Gabriel Hanot, editor of the French sports daily L’Equipe petitioned UEFA to set up a competition for some of the most popular teams in Europe’s various domestic leagues.

Meetings were held in April of 1955 with representatives of Europe’s most popular clubs and a set of competition rules was established. The first game in UEFA Champions League history kicked off between Sporting Club de Lisbon and FK Partizan.

Late changes to the rules saw the inaugural tournament contested only by winners of Europe’s domestic leagues. This format remained popular until 1992 when the competition was expanded to give additional teams a chance to compete for the cup.

The inaugural Champions Clubs’ Cup was won by Spanish club Real Madrid. The rest of the decade saw Real Madrid string together a remarkable succession of victories as they claimed the Champions Clubs Cup five times in succession.

In the 1960 final Real Madrid claimed their fifth Champions Clubs Cup victory. The game against Eintracht Frankfurt drew a crowd of 135,000 to Hampden Park in Scotland, confirming the immense popularity of the tournament. To this day this attendance figure is the highest recorded in UEFA Champions League history.

It was another Spanish giant that broke Real Madrid’s grip on the title. In 1961 Barcelona defeated Real Madrid in the first round of competition, opening the door for Portuguese Club SL Benfica to claim the first of two consecutive titles. Fittingly, Benfica claimed their first title by knocking out Barcelona in the final held in Bern, Switzerland.

Latin dominance in the competition continued well into the 1960s with only Italian, Portuguese and Spanish sides proving able to win the tournament. This trend was only squashed in 1966 when Scottish club Celtic beat Inter Milan in the final held in Portugal.

Celtic’s victory seemed to crack open the competition for Northern European clubs, and over the next two decades clubs from the North dominated the UEFA Champions League, with Ajax Amsterdam, Bayern Munich and Liverpool all making their mark on the tournament.

The last amendment made to the competition in recent UEFA Champions League history was implemented during the 1992/1993 football season, when the tournament was expanded to include more clubs and incorporate a group stage prior to the knockout stages.

The Champions League is always one of the most popular betting events in the world, only beaten in fact by the American Super Bowl. It is estimated that bookmakers will take almost £1billion in bets on the Champions League every season.