Elite clubs twist Uefa's arm to restrict international friendlies

Concessions by Uefa point to concentrating more power in clubs’ hands
  • @SamWallaceIndy

The leading European clubs who have grown tired of losing their players for international dates won significant concessions from Michel Platini, the Uefa president, yesterday over the re-organisation of the football calendar, including the scrapping of the August friendly.

In what was further evidence of the dominance of the modern game by the biggest, wealthiest clubs, their representative body, the European Clubs' Association (ECA), said that Uefa had also agreed to pay €100m (£85m) of Euro 2012's revenues to the clubs, a share that will rise to €150m for the 2016 tournament.

Platini, architect of the Financial Fair Play plans that could revolutionise the game in Europe, has agreed to a cycle of international games of nine double-headers over two years with no dates for single friendlies. The agreement, at the Uefa Congress in Istanbul, is a significant change to the way in which international football has been run.

It coincides with Fifa's agreement to cover the insurance costs of all players in international football from the start of qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals. That is another hard-won battle for the clubs who lost patience with the disparity in injury cover for players from one national federation to another.

The ECA, headed by former Germany striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, now chief executive at Bayern Munich, holds a great deal of power over Uefa, who need their cooperation for the Champions League, the world's most lucrative club competition. The clubs have also won a veto over any changes to the Champions League or the Europa League.

All the concessions by Uefa pointed to concentrating more power in the hands of the elite clubs as opposed to the traditional governing bodies. The ECA has a membership of 201 clubs from 53 nations, including Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Everton, Fulham and Newcastle United.

The shift of power from the game's authorities to the clubs has long been a fact of life in England. The Football Association – whose chairman David Bernstein was in Istanbul yesterday – has always given extensive insurance cover to England players, so the Fifa change will not hit them.

Platini said that the agreement – which must now be formally ratified by Fifa – showed "the excellent working relationship" between Uefa and the clubs. The problem on the horizon is fitting the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar to that calendar if it is to be shifted to the winter months.