Platini tackles international calendar at Uefa summit

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The Independent Online

Europe's 53 football countries had the future and popularity of their national teams at the top of the agenda as a two-day summit meeting in Cyprus opened yesterday.

Uefa member federations are under pressure from influential clubs to play fewer matches by scrapping some international friendly dates and cutting the size of World Cup and European Championship qualifying groups.

Federation presidents and chief executives will meet Europe's eight representatives on Fifa's 24-man executive committee four weeks before Fifa president Sepp Blatter unveils his detailed anti-corruption reforms to clean up world football.

But first, Uefa president Michel Platini, who is favourite to succeed Blatter in 2015, wants the brainstorming session in Limassol to help set priorities for his second four-year term in office, which he won unopposed in March.

"I wanted to have the opportunity to reflect and to discuss with all the 53 member associations on the core issues affecting the future of European football," Platini said in a statement. "These two days are an excellent time to discuss openly, in a relaxed manner, around subjects like youth and women football, or the development of national teams competitions."

Platini is focusing on international football after he made reforming the club game the main goal of his busy first term. The former France great pushed through "financial fair play" rules to curb club spending, helped create and fund the European Club Association, which has often challenged Blatter's authority, and revamped the Champions League and Europa League competitions.

Clubs made wealthier and more powerful by the Champions League also resent handing over their players for national team friendlies, and want June and August dates scrapped.

Europe's federations are largely funded by the national teams and want Platini to boost their status and secure their financial future. For this, they have handed Uefa centralised control of commercial rights to their qualifiers in the hope of getting a better deal.

At Platini's request, Uefa has also expanded the 16-nation European Championship to 24 teams from Euro 2016 onward. Yet many commentators fear more teams means less drama in qualifying and poorer quality at the final tournament.

The future of Olympic football – another source of club-v-country conflict – is also up for discussion in Cyprus.

Uefa and clubs prefer a tournament for under-21 players, but Fifa has bowed to International Olympic Committee pressure to keep eligibility open to older, higher-profile players.

Uefa and Fifa are united in protecting their legal authority to run football, and recent challenges in civil courts by Swiss club FC Sion are likely to be noted as a warning sign on the sidelines of the Cyprus summit.

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