Clubs and UEFA to scrap August friendlies, FIFA not happy
Feb 28, 2012, 14:37 GMT
Berlin - The unpopular August date for international football friendlies is to be scrapped, the European Club Association said on Tuesday after reaching a 'major break-through' with the continental ruling body UEFA.
Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Germany told the ECA general assembly in Warsaw the agreement is part of a new memorandum of understanding between ECA and UEFA from June 1, 2012, until May 30, 2018.
The decision to do away with the games at the start of the European season requires approval by FIFA, and Rummenigge said that talks with the world governing body remain 'unsatisfactory.'
'Unfortunately, discussions with the FIFA President have failed to lead to a satisfactory outcome which takes account of the clubs' demands,' Rummenigge said.
FIFA said in a statement it was 'surprised' by the comments. It said that Rummenigge and ECA general secretary Michele Centenaro have declined to take part in a March 5 calendar meeting, and ECA has not been present at other meetings either.
FIFA said the absence of the ECA officials was 'making it very difficult for progress to be made in discussions with the European clubs,' and also made it clear that it has the final saying on all calendar issues.
Rummenigge said that 'the door isn't closed' and that he and UEFA president Michel Platini had written to FIFA boss Joseph Blatter, 'inviting him to join this agreement.'
Streamlining the calender is one of the most pressing issues for the ECA which represents 201 clubs.
The agreement with UEFA also says that the international calendar will see no more single match friendlies or qualifiers, with nine double-header dates set for the next two years. Both games of the double-headers are to played on the same continent.
In addition, all major championships are to end by mid-July to give players rest and clubs time for pre-season training, the Africa Cup of Nations is to start as early as possible on its January slot, and players must only play in one international event each year.
Financial matters are also part of the memorandum, and UEFA has agreed to 'significantly increase' the current sum of 55 million euros (73.8 million dollars) for the clubs from Euro 2012 income.
The figure is to be announced at the UEFA Congress on March 22, and another raise is planned for Euro 2016 when the number of teams rises from 16 to 24.
UEFA will also insure players at European clubs, regardless of their nationality, to cover their injury risk while on international team duty at friendlies or official tournaments.
The agreement with UEFA also includes a 'referral right' in which no decisions on club football can be taken without their consent.
Insurance and financial issues as well as the international calendar have been long-standing disputes between the ECA, which represents more than 200 European clubs, and the governing bodies.
'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,' Rummenigge said.
'I sincerely thank UEFA, in particular UEFA President Platini, on behalf of all European clubs and look forward to our continued cooperation. This is once more a proof that in the European football family solutions can be found in a cooperative and fair way.'
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