Uefa revamps timetables for international double-headers

 

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The Independent Online

There was more evidence yesterday for Sir Alex Ferguson' belief that 'TV is God' when it comes to football when Uefa unveiled plans to concertina international double-headers in what they describe as 'a week of football'.

Gianni Infantino, Uefa's general secetary, told the Leaders in Football Conference at Stamford Bridge that international qualifiers (European Championship and World Cup) would be played across six days between Thursdays and Tuesdays from 2014 to maximise TV coverage and broadcast income. This would mean playing Thursday and Sunday, Friday and Monday, or Saturday and Tuesday, leaving players with just a two-day break between matches. At present most double-headers are played on Friday and Tuesday leaving weekends without football – anathema for broadcasters and sponsors.

Infantino said: "You can play every three days without harming anyone. It's what happening in club football all year long so that's not a problem. It will be a great benefit to all. This has been unanimously supported by all 53 national associations.” The agreement is linked to the impending agreement to sell TV rights for all qualifiers collectively (as in the Champions League) rather than on the current piecemeal basis in which the home FA sells the rights. Broadcasters will pay higher fees if they have the chance to, for example, broadcast matches involving England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Netherlands on successive nights.

While club managers would welcome the prospect of their players returning after a Sunday international instead of a Tuesday one, they will be concerned that players are more likely to incur injury. While the programme is similar to the domestic-Champions League routine club managers tend to rotate players in such weeks.

The FA are understood to welcome the prospect as weekend afternoon fixtures are much easier to sell tickets for than evening kick-offs.

Infantino also admitted tickets prices for the Champions League final at Wembley in May had been too high and they would be reduced when the final returns to London in 2013. “It slipped through the net,” he said, unconvincingly.

The Uefa official conceded there would be logistical problems at the forthcoming European Championships but said Uefa had no regrets at awarding the competition to Poland and Ukraine. Getting around will be an issue in Ukraine. It does not have the infrastructure in terms of logistics that western countries have,” he said. “They have had to do in three years what normal countries have done in many and tere will be a lot of small things that are not working but at the end of the day it will be overshadowed by a fantastic football tournament. It is a great challenge, but we have no regrets.”

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