Newcastle and Hearts on top table after G14 break-up

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United and Hearts will take their place at the top table of European football tomorrow as the new European Club Association stages their first general assembly in Switzerland.

The organisation has been brought into being to represent club interests with Uefa's blessing in place of the elitist G14 forum. Under Uefa's ranking system, England, like Spain and Italy, are entitled to send five clubs, and Newcastle have been given the fifth spot behind the acknowledged big four of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Scotland have three places and Hearts join Celtic and Rangers.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Rangers were among the 16 founder members of the association, initially set up in January. English influence should also extend to having a member of the 15-strong executive board elected tomorrow, as Chelsea's chief executive Peter Kenyon has been on the transitional board since then. A total of 103 clubs are included; all of Uefa's 53 associations have a minimum of one representative.

The ECA claim to have already won important concessions for the clubs in the continuing conflict with the demands of international football. International matches will eventually be switched from Wednesday to Tuesday, allowing players to return to their clubs earlier, and players based in Europe will not have to take part in more than one friendly for their country played in other continents.

Managers like Arsenal's Arsène Wenger have regularly complained about players from South America or Africa being forced to make long journeys for friendlies and returning too late to prepare properly for the next domestic match. Influence has also been brought to bear on the African Nations Cup, the timing of which in January upsets leading clubs. From 2010 it will start two weeks earlier, helping European clubs who have a midwinter break.

The other breakthrough was in forcing Uefa to pay all clubs whose players appear in a European Championship or World Cup. The rate of approximately €4,000 (£3,165) per player per day amounts to a total of £34,425,000 which Uefa will hand over from Euro 2008. So Liverpool, with four players in the winning Spain squad for a month, should receive almost £400,000, and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, having supplied Marius Niculae for Romania, are due £80,000.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, of Bayern Munich, who is expected to be confirmed as the ECA's chairman, says the organisation does not support Fifa's "six plus five" proposal under which teams can field a maximum of five foreigners but they are backing Uefa's version in which clubs must include eight "home-grown" players in their squad for European competitions next season.

That includes players, like Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who have been at a club for three years between the ages of 15 and 21.

Uefa had been concerned for a long time that the G14 would at some stage break away if they did not get their own way in matters such as the format of the Champions' League and payments to clubs for their international players.

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