European Club Association opposes Fifa over international calendar

Europe’s top clubs have expressed “major concerns on how world football is governed”. Following their general assembly in Geneva, the 136 clubs of the European Club Association rejected Fifa proposals to expand the international calendar and registered their anger at a lack of consultation over whether to hold the Qatar 2022 World Cup in the winter. Fifa has added eight dates for international fixtures to the calendar, including the current round of friendlies.

“I wouldn’t say we are at war – the clubs are very patient – but we have our limits,” said the Barcelona president, Sandro Rosell.

Umberto Gandini, a Milan director and vice-chairman of the ECA, said: “There is not a national team manager or a club manager who is happy there is an international friendly match tomorrow. It’s just nonsense. We suddenly realised that Fifa can alter the international calendar when they like.”

Sepp Blatter wants international football to take precedent over the club game. Photograph: Steffen Schmidt/AP

The Manchester United chief executive, David Gill, who is on the ECA board, said the debate over whether to move the 2022 World Cup had not been dealt with correctly.

“There has been concern obviously in the way this debate has manifested itself,” he said. “That is the view of more than 100 clubs and the European leagues. This is a major thing that will have ramifications for club football for three seasons. For it to happen in that way was somewhat surprising. This is an issue that has not been dealt with correctly.”

The ECA announced a set of “new basic principles” it would like to see in place regarding the international calendar. It proposed a maximum of one international tournament per player per year and national team “periods” instead of single dates.

Michele Centenaro, the ECA general secretary, said: “The ECA primarily questions the way Fifa reaches decisions heavily affecting club football without the involvement of the clubs themselves and believes that modern football needs democracy, transparency and certainty of rules.”

The intensifying club v country row could have ramifications for this summer’s Fifa presidential race. The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, who has argued passionately for the primacy of international football, could be challenged by the president of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam.

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