The 'champions' aspect of the UEFA Champions League has been underlined by UEFA General Secretary David Taylor at today's draw ceremony for the newly introduced play-off round in Nyon, Switzerland.
"We reach another milestone in the revised access list. In order to reach the group stage of the Champions League, teams are drawn into either a 'Champions Route' play-off or a 'Non-Champions Route' play-off," Mr Taylor said. "These new arrangements will mean that we will have at least another five national association champions joining those 13 that have already directly qualified for the group stage. The final outcome of the qualification process will be that out of the 32 clubs in the group stage, 18 will be domestic champions.
"The format may be not such a big change compared to past qualifying formats," Mr Taylor added, "but it does highlight the 'champions' aspect of the UEFA Champions League. Of course, in the Non-Champions Route, we have also some very well respected clubs and strong teams capable of competing at the highest levels of European football. So the play-off games will be very well contested indeed. And they are also being centrally marketed by UEFA for the very first time, as we aim to capitalise on the UEFA Champions League brand for the benefit of all participants."
Mr Taylor also reminded the clubs present about UEFA's Respect campaign – click here for more details. "Please encourage and emphasise respect for the game of football within your club, to your players, and to your supporters, for whose behaviour in European competitions you as a club are held responsible," he said. "In particular, I want to remind you that any acts of racism will not be tolerated – any racist behaviour of spectators can this season result in matches being suspended or abandoned by the referee, and this would then lead to serious repercussions from our disciplinary authorities."
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