UEFA has urged Europe's clubs, fans and players to show respect for one another as another UEFA Champions League season gets under way.
In his address at the draw ceremony for the UEFA Champions League first and second qualifying rounds in Nyon, the European football body's General Secretary David Taylor called for respect to be upheld within the game to help continue the prestigious competition's success story. "The UEFA Champions League has established itself over the years as the premier club competition in the world," Mr Taylor said. "It is a competition that everyone wants to play in." Congratulations were due, Mr Taylor said, to the clubs for their achievement in reaching the UEFA Champions League.
The UEFA General Secretary said that even though the path to qualification for the group stage may seem a long one for the clubs, the new format that starts this year allowed for two separate qualification routes – the Champions' Path and the best-placed route. With the Champions' Path, the 17 second qualifying round winners will be joined by three more domestic champions in the third qualifying round, and those teams will compete for five guaranteed places in the group stage.
Thanks to changes
"Five other clubs will come from the best-placed route, to join the 22 pre-qualified clubs directly for the group stage and give us our 32 group-stage clubs," he added. "This means that thanks to the changes promoted by [UEFA] President Michel Platini, there will be more national champions represented in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League than ever before.
"The UEFA Champions League has been a success story both on and off the pitch," Mr Taylor told club representatives. "But now the benefits, both financial and sporting, will be spread more widely as we endeavour to promote top-level football across Europe – north and south, east and west.
Respect for one another
"The promotion of our game also depends on a shared duty to uphold the qualities of respect; on the field of play for the opponent and the referee, and off the field for the opposing clubs and their fans. So be as competitive as you can be in trying to progress in the competition – but do not forget the basic principles of respect on which our game is based."
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