By Adrian Harte
The fate of over 130 European clubs will be decided this week in Monaco, with the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup draws taking place today and tomorrow respectively. But the draw process is much more than simply pulling some names out of a hat.
Some figures serve to give a scale of the event. The draws will be attended by 128 clubs over the two days, which means a total of about 380 club representatives will watch the draws take place. In addition, the media interest is huge, with some 400 media representatives in attendance, including 350 journalists, 30 photographers and 13 television crews.
The first task for the organisers was to find a suitable venue. The state-of-the-art Grimaldi Forum is hosting the draws, and the many UEFA meetings and workshops that take place in Monaco in UEFA Super Cup week, for the fifth successive year. The venue plays host to over 100 events each year and caters for over 175,000 visitors per year. The actual draws themselves take place in the venue's impressive 1,800-seat opera house.
Nothing left to chance
Those involved in making sure everything runs smoothly include UEFA officials, event management specialists, broadcasters and production crews and IT specialists, who provide the computer system that ensures the correct draw procedure is in place and decide the final position of each team within their group. Nothing is left to chance - even a new set of plexiglass draw balls have been ordered for the occasion. Indeed, a full rehearsal takes place the day before the Champions League draw - before the final eleven teams are even known.
Attention to detail
There are personnel dedicated to a multitude of specific tasks from taking care of the all-important trophies to organising media accreditation; from making sure the draw balls and the slips of paper that go in them are all present and correct to devising a camera plan for broadcasters.
Months of planning
The person with the unenviable task of coordinating this febrile and feverish activity is UEFA's draw project coordinator Stéphanie Theintz. She explained how much work is involved in making sure the draw runs smoothly. She said: "It takes about 40 people working for two to three days full-time to get everything ready for the draw, mainly broadcasters, production companies, a graphics company and, of course, UEFA officials. [Before that] there are about two or three month's work and planning."
Of course, the draw is not just about what happens when the balls come out of the glass bowls. It is an opportunity for club representatives - who include coaches, chairman, presidents, general managers and chief executives - to interact. Thus, the minutes after the draw are crucial with designated meeting points erected for each Champions League group, so that the clubs can discuss fixture arrangements and make and renew acquaintances. By then the months of hard work behind the scenes will have paid off.
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