The UEFA Champions League is more popular than ever, in sporting and commercial terms, as European club football's premium competition enters the 2012/13 season in rude health.
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino told club representatives at the draw for the third qualifying round in Nyon that teamwork between UEFA and the clubs was helping to bolster the UEFA Champions League in a time of economic austerity.
"As we are now entering a new three-year cycle from 2012 to 2015, we have just completed the media and marketing rights sales, and overall revenues are predicted to be up by 22%," Infantino said. "This is a great achievement, and a fantastic boost for European club football given the current economic downturn and the financial constraints that many companies are up against.
"It just proves the incredible strength of football," the UEFA general secretary continued, "and most notably of the UEFA Champions League, whose thrilling games deliver the perfect show to stadium crowds and TV spectators. This is thanks in no small part to the great collaboration between UEFA and the clubs."
Amid the continuing UEFA Champions League success story, Infantino sounded a note of caution. "We must also continue to be vigilant to safeguard that which we treasure," he said. "We are still confronted almost weekly by fresh new scandals and rumours of match-fixing. This continues to be the greatest threat to our game as it touches the very soul of it.
"Out of respect for the fans and for the game itself, I ask you therefore to be on your guard continually and to report any suspicions that you or your players may have. Only by working together we can tackle this scourge that is blighting our game.
"In this respect," Infantino concluded, "UEFA will continue with its zero tolerance policy towards any involvement in illegal or irregular activities connected to our matches, and anyone caught risks a life ban from the game."
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