The man behind the stars: Phil Clements and the creation of the Champions League logo

The designer of the now iconic stars talks to Dom Walbanke about it's inception and how the prototype ball was nearly lost when someone headed it out the window

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The Independent Football

It's one of the most recognisable designs in Europe. Eight stars encompassed in a circle seen within the greatest stadiums, worn on the sleeves of the greatest players and been part of the greatest goals in the form of the Champions League ball.

The Champions League logo is 22 years old, and was created in a London office by Phil Clements, founder of design company Design Bridge. The firm was approached by Uefa to create a logo which would reflect the prestige of their new European Cup tournament in 1992, to then be judged among other designs by a Uefa panel.

Clements went about sketching his idea "it was going to be a league system culminating into eight teams who would play each other. I think that was their original idea and that's why there's eight stars. I had to fit in an extra star on one side, it's a quirky thing." The original sketch was marginally different to the finalised design with the Champions League text written around the edge to envisage what it would have looked like on the sleeve of Europe’s greatest players.

That first sketch has been kept, but only after a frantic search around the house "there was a quibble in the courts over the ownership of it at one point. I don't know quite what it was to do with claiming ownership but they had to prove that I'd done it under their auspices so I had to delve round in my attic for quite a long time before I found a piece of paper of the image."

The logo can be seen being used in the centre circle prior to the final in May


Once the design was complete, it made its way to Uefa offices ready for inspection. There were 50 designs by 50 different designers which made it to the headquarters of Uefa to be judged by the panel, but Clement's winning design almost never even made it to that stage "just before the door shut of the meeting I said 'stick that one up', it was like that. I didn't see anybody else's designs. I chipped in at the last minute. They pinned up the designs on a wall and picked mine."

The versatility of the logo is perhaps the reason for its success, even 22 years on. "That is probably one of the most universally usable logos because it just sits on anything really nicely. So you get it in the TV studio, it's good branding and you don't need the words with it. It is what it is."

Considering the impact Clements has had on the image of the Champions League, not least the ball design, he hasn't been to many matches "I wasn't invited to the early games, it was all the bigwigs, they all went and the humble little designer went into the background a bit. I'm a bit miffed by that, but of course I wasn't working for them (full-time) at the time. They were helping me out."

The logo is hugely adaptable


But once a friend realised he'd never seen his own design on a Champions League night, with the flag placed on the centre circle and the banners around the edges, he made sure that they would watch the next final: Old Trafford 2003. "When I went to Old Trafford for the final, they mowed the grass into the pattern in the centre circle. So the chap with the mower actually cut the stars into the grass. It was that good.

"We stayed the night in a flash hotel, went to hospitality, got treated like kings. It wasn’t a great game to be honest, although the noise from the Italians was fantastic - a real wall of noise, especially from the Juventus fans."

The logo is perhaps most iconic on the thing that's most important of all: the ball. Clements remembers the time he wrapped his star design around a featureless ball and threw it around with his colleague and boss "the boss didn't like it, he was quite old-school and said it looked too jazzy. I said to him it was perfect and we went with it. When the prototype got into a Uefa meeting, someone headed the ball out the window. There was a football match being played outside and the supporters were walking out." It was never found.

The image of the Champions League may end as we know it, however, with talk of the logo being redesigned further down the line "they've talked about redesigning it but I don't think they've got any further with it at all. It's become an icon. I fully expected it to be redesigned every so often but it's quite nice not to have been changed."

Hopefully the stars won't reach the end of their lives just yet.