For UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, today's play-off draw in Nyon not only marked the threshold of an exciting new UEFA Champions League season but also signalled another major step forward in the development of European football's top club competition.
The draw proceedings featured ten teams in the champions route and another ten in the league route, all with the ambition of joining the 22 automatic qualifiers in the 2012/13 group stage. What gave added significance to this assigning of teams to ties – with five match-ups in each route – was that "the new season of UEFA Champions League football heralds the start of another three-year cycle," Mr Infantino explained to the club representatives.
"We have a new commercial partner on board and there are some changes on our squad list of TV partners who do a great job of promoting the world's best club competition and transmitting the thrills and emotions that it generates," he said. "The new cycle also heralds an increase in revenue – which, in today's economic climate, is quite remarkable and confirms just how attractive this competition is.
"We can be very satisfied when we observe that football continues to thrive even in a difficult economic climate. The strength of our beautiful sport goes over the many difficulties our world is experiencing and makes it one of the few global catalysts for collective enjoyment."
However, the UEFA General Secretary was at pains to emphasise that any further growth in the UEFA Champions League has to be accompanied by the upholding of football's values and integrity in the face of threats such as racism, violence, corruption and match-fixing.
"That [prosperity] does not signify that football lives in an island of its own – football values are continuously threatened by serious dangers like racism, violence, corruption and match-fixing," he said, before urging the clubs to continue to assist in the safeguarding of the game's true spirit.
"All those who are involved and have responsibilities in football – we the governing bodies but also you the clubs – have a compelling duty to be more than vigilant and proactive in tackling such threats as they can kill the soul of our sport and break the love affair football enjoys with millions of fans," Mr Infantino went on.
"That's why UEFA will keep our zero-tolerance policy for any type of wrongdoing, with preventive action and sanctions when needed. We know we can count on your full support and active cooperation."
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