UEFA and Europe's top football clubs agree to reduce number of international matches
Agreement would see number of international breaks decrease over a two-year period
UEFA would also take out insurance to cover players while on international duty
The agreement between UEFA and the clubs needs to be ratified by FIFA
Football clubs and national federations have long been at loggerheads over the balance between domestic and international matches, but Europe’s top teams heralded a “major breakthrough” on Tuesday.
Europe’s top soccer clubs and the continent’s governing body, UEFA, have announced an agreement which would reduce the amount of international fixtures.
The European Club Association (ECA) confirmed UEFA had pledged to amend its football calendar to include nine two-match international breaks over a two-year period rather than the current 12.
The agreement would also spell the end of single-match international breaks, such as this week’s set of fixtures which features high-profile friendly matches like England’s clash with the Netherlands and Germany’s home match against France.
“The agreement with UEFA is a major breakthrough for European club football,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, ECA Chairman and CEO of German giants Bayern Munich, said in a statement.
“UEFA clearly recognizes 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.
“This is once more proof that in the European football family solutions can be found in a cooperative and fair way.”
Despite UEFA and the ECA finding common ground, the agreement must still be ratified by football’s global governing body, FIFA.
Rummenigge, a two-time European Footballer of the Year, said talks with FIFA president Sepp Blatter have so far proved unsuccessful.
“While an agreement has been reached with UEFA, the situation remains unsatisfactory in relation to FIFA,” he said.
“Unfortunately, discussions with the FIFA president have failed to lead to a satisfactory outcome which takes account of the clubs’ demands.”
The German’s comments prompted a response from FIFA, who claimed the issue of the international calendar was up for debate at a meeting on March 5.
Football’s global governing body also said Rummenigge and other ECA representatives had declined invitations to be part of the discussions.
“FIFA is surprised by recent comments made by ECA stating that they are not satisfied with their discussions,” read a statement on FIFA’s website.
“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.
“FIFA remains, as always, willing to discuss with ECA on these topics, as it does with all other stakeholders in the world football community.
“Finally, 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 agreement would also see UEFA take out insurance aimed at covering players who are injured while on international duty.
The insurance would be in place from the forthcoming Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine onwards.
If the new rules are put into place, there would be a limit on only one international tournament each year.
It also states that the African Cup of Nations must start as early in January as possible in years when it is being held, while other international tournaments must be finished by mid-July.