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Nations League Launched At UEFA Congress

Thu 27th Mar 2014 | Club & Country Competitions

UEFA’s member associations have unanimously voted in favour of plans for a new ‘Nations League’ which will also be linked to the Euro Qualifiers.

The 54 UEFA member associations unanimously adopted a four-point resolution entitled "Resolution on National Team Football 2018-2022" at the UEFA Congress in Astana which will see the launch of the UEFA Nations League from 2018.

The competition will feature promotion and relegation and will replace most international friendlies.

"We accept and respect that all UEFA member associations have agreed to create a new competition," said Wolfgang Niersbach, chairman of the National Teams Competition Committee in a statement.

"This is a big step for national teams in Europe and we hope that fans will support the new format."

The UEFA Nations League and the EURO Qualifiers will be linked, with the new competition allowing an extra chance to qualify for UEFA EURO final tournaments. The competition and proposed amended qualifying formats for the European Qualifiers, starting with UEFA EURO 2020, came after a thorough consultation process with UEFA's member associations, which began in 2011.

The exact format of the UEFA Nations League has not been finalised and will be the subject of further discussions between UEFA member associations, but the concept is for the 54 national teams to be divided into four large divisions according to coefficient rankings.

The announcement was welcomed cautiously by the European Club Association (ECA) who said that its member clubs did not oppose the project, as the number of international matches in the calendar would remain unchanged but would require further analysis of any possible impact once the format had been finalised.

Commenting on the Nations League and a possible impact on the club game, ECA Chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, said, "A positive aspect of this new concept is that our players will no longer have to travel around the world for friendly matches.”

However, FIFPro, the world footballers’ association have raised concerns about the added strain it would place on the world’s elite players but said it appreciated the efforts of UEFA and its members to schedule more competitive matches.

“It should be clear that there is a difference in a friendly match and a competitive match,” explained FIFPro Director of Player Services, Tijs Tummers.

“As we understand, the Nations League will be another prestigious competition. As a consequence, that implies an increase in the workload for the group of top players.” 

Coaches often use friendly matches to introduce young, new players to their squads, to give them a first taste of international football. Because of that, coaches can rest their top stars by not playing them the full ninety minutes or by not playing them at all. “That will change when there is more at stake,” Tummers foresees.

“Mostly, the countries organise a friendly against an opponent of equal quality. What should be thought over is the amount of qualifying matches between teams that have an enormous gap in talent level.

“Very often you see a match between nations that are more than 100 places separated from each other on the FIFA rankings. Even with the new Nations League, those matches will remain on the International Match Calendar.”

Image: Action Images / Carl Recine

Posted by: Aaron Gourley  

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