Why is the UEFA Champions League a Big Deal?
The UEFA Champions League kicked off yesterday with some dynamic group games to the delight of soccer fans across the globe (myself included). With the conclusion of the first International break, it's a good time of year for soccer fans-- the EPL resumes, the Champions League commences and MLS games matter. The Champions Leagues seems to garner the majority of attention, though. But, why?
Why is the Champions League such a big deal?
First, it has to be clear that by Champions League, what is really meant is the UEFA Champions League. After all, there are actually Champions Leagues for each and every continental region: OFC (Asia), CONCACAF (North America), Copa Libertadores (South America), AFC (Asia), UEFA (Europe), and CAF (Africa). To the majority of global fans, the only Champions League that matters is UEFA. The biggest teams with the players with the most recognized names are pitted against each other in conquest of European glory. It brings us tantalizing match-ups between the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, and Real Madrid and Liverpool. No other Champions League offers that kind of competition (though you should still support your local champions league).
So here's why the UEFA Champions League is such a big deal:
Glory. Recognition. Money.
And not necessarily in that order.
Big European clubs are always in pursuit of trophies. Whether in their domestic leagues or national tournaments, every club wants to add to the trophy case and thus their legacy. Although a league title or national cup is certainly important, the most difficult trophy to lift is the Champions League. If you want to be the best club in Europe, you have to lift the Champions League Trophy. Real Madrid could not be prouder of La Decima, what they call their ten European Championships. Chelsea's owner, Roman Abromovich, fired through manager after manager in search of their first European Trophy before winning the competition in 2011-2012. Club owners may sell their first born for domestic glory. They'll sale their soul for the Champions League.
Maybe more than glory, clubs are in pursuit of recognition. It's no longer enough to be the best known club in your country. Local fans are great, but international fans are better. And there's no better way to gain support than through the Champions League. How many people outside of Switzerland would know about FC Basel if it weren't for their two victories against Chelsea in last year's group stage? Other clubs from smaller markets like Steaua Bucharest, Shakhtar Donetsk and Galatasaray have been able to gain name recognition as a result of their steady appearance in the Champions League. Becuase of that, they've been able to attract bigger named players and draw larger crowds for other games. They've become more than just national clubs. They've become international brands.
And that brings us to the biggest reason why the Champions League is a big deal: money.
Big European clubs love
trophies, glory and money.
The Champions League is a cash cow that every club wants to milk. With increased revenue from ticket sales to games against big name clubs, merchandise sales of champions league specific apparel, broadcast revenue, sponsorship incentives along with the chance to gain international market penetration, clubs are drooling at the potential earnings from participating in the Champions League. Clubs want to play in the Champions League because of its financial incentives, rarely because of it's competitive nature.
And that's completely fine.
Why? Because ultimately, though the Champions League offers considerable financial benefits to it's participants, the Champions League is about the audience. We get to watch excillerating matches between Europe's top clubs. We get to experience the excitement of our club advances through the competition or the agony when our club is eliminated. And we get more soccer.
Why is the Champions League such a big deal? Because in sports entertainment, the audience is a big deal. We are what gives the Champions League value. So enjoy it.