UEFA Expected To Vote In Favor Of New Nations League Competition To Debut In '18
UEFA is expected to announce the "introduction of a new Nations League for national teams" starting in '18 and "tougher, Europe-wide sanctions against match fixing at their Congress on Thursday," according to Mike Collett of REUTERS. The annual meeting of the 54 member associations will "almost certainly endorse both proposals when they vote in the snowy capital of the central Asian country of Kazakhstan." Although the "exact details have yet to be revealed, the Nations League competition will largely replace friendly games and become, in effect, the third major international competition for European teams after the World Cup and European Championship." The plan would involve teams playing in "three or four divisions, with promotion and relegation between them." UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said that the details "would be announced at Congress" (REUTERS, 3/26). In London, Mark Cue reported UEFA sources indicated that "all 54 members would be split into four divisions, with England likely to be in a top division of 14 teams along with Spain, the world and European champions, as well as heavyweights such as Germany, Italy and Holland." The present European qualifying competitions for those major events "would remain but the four qualification spots that are currently decided by the play-offs would revert to the 'League of Nations.'" There would also be "some friendly dates kept to allow lesser nations to arrange high-profile fixtures with the big names in Europe, and for countries to play friendlies against non-European opposition" (LONDON TIMES, 3/26).
START DATE: The PA reported the Nations League would begin after the 2018 World Cup and have a "climax of semi-finals and final at a neutral venue, while in the lower divisions there would be a final to decide on promotion and qualification places for the World Cup and European Championships" (PA, 3/26). SKY SPORTS' Bryan Swanson reported UEFA's Congress will "only vote to approve a new competition and will not vote on a format." It "is believed part of the proposal includes European nations winning qualifying places for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar." UEFA sources, however, said that would "require separate approval" from FIFA. UEFA will hold further discussions with European associations about the tournament's format after Thursday's vote (SKY SPORTS, 3/26).