Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.
A Champions League football resting on a pedastal within an empty stadium.
The Champions League match ball, 2017.

The development of the Champions League

In 1992 the UEFA European Champions’ League was formed. Previously the European Cup had been played on a knock-out basis, but it would now be based on groups, culminating in a final. The format and the number of clubs gradually expanded, which could include up to five clubs from one nation.

Football was the one form of popular culture that united Europe and the competition’s development can be seen in light of increasing European integration. Both the Maastricht Treaty and Single European Act were signed in 1992.

Yet the Champions’ League also owed its creation to the globalising forces of television and commercialisation.

Developments in European football mirrored those amongst English clubs before the Premier League broke away. In Europe one man at the helm was the media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, the AC Milan President and later prime minister of Italy.

In 1998 the threat of a European Super League emerged. UEFA responded by increasing the number of Champions’ League clubs to 32. Two years later fourteen of the richest clubs formed their own lobby group, the ‘G-14’ (later increased to 18 clubs) to pressurise UEFA and FIFA into further increasing their share of income from the Champions’ League and the World Cup finals.

These developments were beginning to change the landscape of European football. Across Europe, a growing gap developed in domestic leagues between the super-rich clubs who perennially played in the Champions’ League and who increasingly looked upon themselves as brands, and lesser clubs.

Discussion activity

Is a European Super League inevitable? Have a look at this debate from 2008, and add your thoughts below.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

English Football: a Social History

University of Leicester

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Early football fans
    Early football fans

    What were football fans like in the early 1900s? What happened on a match day and how did the players engage with them? Hear from players and experts.

  • Green background with team sheet showing players from the 1999 Chelsea all-international team
    The Internationalisation of English football

    We watch international stars every week in the Premier League. But which club fielded the first completely non-British team, back in 1999?

  • The 2015-16 Season: part III (becoming real)
    The 2015-16 Season: part III (becoming real)

    In 2016 the world suddenly sat up and watched as Leicester City won two key matches to cement their astonishing Premier League title challenge.

Contact FutureLearn for Support