International fixtures likely to be cut after clubs and Uefa reach agreement

 

A war of words broke out between FIFA and top European clubs today after a move that could see the number of internationals played each year slashed.

The European Clubs' Association (ECA) and UEFA have reached an agreement on proposals to change the international calendar, but the clubs are still refusing to talk to FIFA, who have the ultimate power over the number of matches.

The agreement would see an average of nine international matches played a year rather than 12, with nine double-headers over a two-year period and no one-off friendlies such as England v Holland tomorrow, and the August friendly date scrapped.

It is a compromise solution - last year the clubs demanded the number of internationals be halved to six a year - and was announced at the ECA general assembly in Warsaw today.

ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirmed however that the clubs' boycott on talks with FIFA still stands.

Rummenigge said: "The agreement with UEFA is a major break-through for European club football. With this agreement, UEFA clearly recognises the importance of clubs and the significant contribution they make to the success of national team football.

"The negotiations have not always proved easy, but were always conducted in a fair and respectful manner. I sincerely thank UEFA, in particular UEFA president Michel Platini, on behalf of all European clubs and look forward to our continued cooperation."

He added: "While an agreement has been reached with UEFA, the situation remains unsatisfactory in relation to FIFA. Unfortunately, discussions with the FIFA president have failed to lead to a satisfactory outcome which takes account of the clubs' demands."

UEFA also agreed to take out insurance to cover the wages of all players injured on international duty, starting at Euro 2012, and to increase the amount of money paid to clubs for their players taking part in the tournament.

The amount was 55 million euros for the last tournament and the new figure - a "substantial increase" according to the ECA - will be announced next month.

FIFA pointed out that only they have the power to make changes to the calendar.

A statement said: "FIFA is surprised by recent comments made by ECA stating that they are not satisfied with their discussions with football's world governing body regarding topics of interest to the European clubs, including the international match calendar.

"FIFA would like to recall that the international dates and the international match calendar have to be applied on a worldwide basis and that this calendar is ultimately regulated by FIFA, as football's world governing body."

The next meeting to discuss the international match calendar will be on March 5 but UEFA will have to put forward the ECA's position.

FIFA added: "Both ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and ECA general secretary Michele Centenaro are members of this working group and have been invited to attend the meeting, but have declined to take part in the meeting. ECA representatives have previously declined attendance to other FIFA committee meetings, making it very difficult for progress to be made in discussions with the European clubs."

The ECA added that in future, the clubs will have a 'referral right', meaning they have to give their consent to all decisions affecting European club football.

The clubs have however been unable to persuade UEFA to back them in their opposition to the timing of the African Nations Cup in January and February. The agreement merely states that the tournament "shall start as soon as possible in January".

UEFA's general secretary Gianni Infantino, said: "With this renewed agreement that for the first time will cover insurance for players registered with European clubs not only are we looking after the players, the clubs and the national associations, but we are also demonstrating a true respect and unity with our fellow football confederations.

"We are therefore extremely happy with the announcement of this renewed agreement with the ECA and we are equally confident that our calendar proposition will be approved by FIFA, who have always maintained dialogue with us on this matter."

PA

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