Uefa to confirm ‘Nations League’ tournament

New division-based competition will largely replace friendly matches from 2018

Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino

Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino


The Republic of Ireland’s ability to arrange money-spinning friendlies against top-tier European countries will be greatly reduced with the introduction of a new Nations League competition.

Uefa are expected to announce the introduction of the new competition from 2018, a tournament that 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. Under the proposals, and using the current Uefa coefficients, Ireland would be grouped in a division alongside the likes of Denmark, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Sweden, Ukraine and Switzerland.

The competition would culminate in a “final four” tournament with two semi-finals and a final taking place at a neutral venue in the summer of odd-numbered years.

The annual meeting of the 54 member associations at Congress tomorrow will almost certainly endorse the proposal when they vote in Kazakhstan.

Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino told a media briefing on Wednesday said the details would be announced tomorrow.

“What has triggered this whole discussion is that we have been working to establish a new international calendar,” he said. “We also wanted to bring more structure to the dates when there are friendly matches.

“There are some countries everyone wants to play against and other teams who struggle to find opponents, so we looked for something new and have come up with the Nations League, which will be presented to Congress on Thursday.”

Infantino also gave more detail on the proposals Uefa want to introduce to deal with match-fixing, which, he said, was only producing 0.7 per cent alerts from the 32,000 matches Uefa monitors 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

“That is still 0.7 too many. An alert does not mean the match is fixed, of course, but it alerts us to anything unusual taking place,” he said.

“But even 0.001 per cent is too many. We are sure there is nothing going on at the top level of the major leagues. But our objective is to completely eradicate match fixing from football, so that is why we are continuing working on it.

“There are many aspects to this and we are looking to harmonise sanctions across Europe as much as possible with life bans issued across the continent, and no statutes of limitations for when sanctions can be applied.

“We are working with integrity officers in each country who are working with police forces, and we also want ‘sports fraud’ enshrined as a crime in the relevant criminal law because this allows police forces to act.

“We also want hard, strict sanctions in every country including life bans. The criminals will always try and stay one step ahead but we believe match fixing is reducing with what we already have in place, like our betting fraud detection system.”

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