Uefa League of Nations: how will new tournament work?
Meaningless international friendlies to become a thing of the past under new plans
PLANS to make international friendlies more exciting by introducing a European 'League of Nations' have been approved by Fifa.
The new competition, which will begin in September 2018, will see countries split into divisions, with relegation and promotion, and the league will also provide a method of qualification for the European Championships.
There will be play off between the top teams in each division in odd-numbered years and the aim is to establish the competition as a third major tournament after the World Cup and Euros.
Why has it been proposed?
International friendlies have become a pointless exercise in the eyes of many fans. Club managers are loath to release players for "meaningless" games, national managers often make huge numbers of substitutions and fans of "big" nations are unwilling to fork out to watch the games. Uefa hopes that "the new tournament will help improve the quality and standing of international football, as it will allow all nations to play competitively at their level", explains The Independent. Another aim is to challenge the popularity of the Champions League, which is now seen as superior to international football.
How will it work?
"Uefa is still finalising the details but there will be four divisions, sub-divided into four smaller pools," says the BBC. "The top division's four pool winners will then play each other in June 2019." Outlining the plans for the first event Uefa explains: "Prior to Euro 2020, each division will be sub-divided into four pools of three or four teams, so each team plays four to six matches between September and November 2018." The pool winners will then play each other in a round robin final at a neutral venue.
What about European Championships?
"As well as the carrot of promotion, winners of the lower divisions could be rewarded with wild-card places at future European Championships," says the Daily Telegraph. Quite how that will impact on the current qualification process remains to be seen. The Daily Mirror says the tournament "would not replace the current qualifying competitions but [could] still award the four spots that are currently decided by the play-offs". It adds that World Cup places for the 2022 tournament in Qatar could also be decided through the league
Will it completely replace friendlies?
Not entirely. "While matches will be played on dates reserved for friendlies, there will still be flexibility for smaller countries to arrange high-profile fixtures with bigger European teams and for nations to play friendlies against national sides from outside Europe," says the BBC.
Where will the home nations be?
Based on their current ranking, England would be in the top tier with the likes of Spain and Germany. However, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - ranked 31, 34 and 39 respectively by Uefa - could find themselves playing each other in the third or fourth divisions, says the BBC.