Clubs and UEFA agree to drop August friendlies

Europe's leading football clubs welcomed a "major breakthrough" with UEFA on Tuesday after agreeing a new accord with European football's governing body over the international calendar, insurance for injured players and power-sharing.

European Clubs Association (ECA) chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, in an address to its general assembly in the Polish capital, announced the ECA and UEFA had agreed that the unpopular pre-season August friendly date should be scrapped.

UEFA insurance is also due to cover players injured on international duty.

However, he warned that FIFA had yet to sanction the proposals and provoked a response from the world governing body after criticising the way the organisation had behaved.

"It is not our will to go against FIFA," Rummenigge told a news conference. "But our request for transparency and democracy has to be accepted."

FIFA said it was surprised by recent developments at ECA, saying the association had hindered progress on the international calendar because its members had declined to attend FIFA committee meetings.

FIFA has invited the ECA and other world football stakeholders to a meeting on March 5 in Zurich to discuss the calendar from 2015 onwards, but both Rummenigge and ECA general secretary Michele Centenaro have opted not to attend.

FAIR AGREEMENT

However, the mood from the ECA was extremely positive with Rummenigge telling reporters after the assembly, attended by 123 of their 201 member clubs: "We reached a fair and good agreement within the European football family."

Under the new agreement with UEFA over the use of their players by national teams, European clubs will share a "substantially increased" sum over and above the 55 million euros previously agreed for Euro 2012.

There will be "a further increase" for the Euro 2016 finals in France, with the new amounts for both tournaments to be announced at the UEFA Congress in Istanbul next month.

UEFA also said it will cover players injured on international duty starting with this June's Euros in Poland and Ukraine.

"This insurance is valid for all players registered with a European club, irrespective of their nationality, and for all matches mentioned in the international calendar, including both official and friendly matches," an ECA statement added.

Major changes have also been agreed, subject to FIFA's approval, to the international calendar.

COMPROMISE SOLUTION

The ECA originally proposed six double-header dates for a two-year tournament qualification cycle, but a "compromise solution" of nine double-headers starting in 2015 was acceptable to both UEFA and the ECA.

There will be no single dates for friendlies with the unpopular August friendly dropped from the calendar, probably from 2014.

If FIFA agrees, there will also be no more than one international tournament per player per year, final tournaments of all confederations will end by mid-July and the Africa Cup of Nations will start as soon as possible in January.

Rummenigge added: "The agreement with UEFA is a major breakthrough 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.

"This is once more a proof that in the European football family solutions can be found in a co-operative and fair way.

"I sincerely thank UEFA, in particular UEFA President [Michel] Platini, on behalf of all European clubs and look forward to our continued co-operation."

MARCH MEETING

The German said problems remained with FIFA, adding: "Unfortunately, discussions with the FIFA president have failed to lead to a satisfactory outcome which takes account of the clubs' demands."

In a statement, world football's governing body 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.

"ECA representatives are in fact members of several FIFA committees and are always invited to take part in the discussions on such topics, together with representatives from clubs of other confederations.

"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 new Memorandum of Understanding, as the ECA and UEFA have named it, starts on June 1 and runs until May 30 2018 and also includes a new clause allowing clubs a "referral right" on all decisions affecting club football.


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