FIFA talks herald major step in calendar reform

06 Mar 2012

European clubs have moved a step closer to being granted their request for major reform of the international friendly calendar after FIFA on Monday detailed plans that would see the abolition of unpopular games in February and August.

At FIFA’s invitation, a working group of major stakeholders from the international football community, including confederations, players, clubs and professional football leagues, met in Zurich to discuss the post-2014 international match calendar. The meeting was boycotted by the 200-member European Club Association (ECA), which is in dispute with FIFA, but the agenda was led by the calendar plans that were outlined as part of the major Memorandum of Understanding the body struck with UEFA last week.

Following Monday’s talks at FIFA headquarters the participants have agreed on a calendar for the 2015-18 period comprising of nine double dates in a two-year cycle, meaning 18 matches in total, with a 10th double date available for the non-European member associations during Euro 2016. Even distribution of the nine double dates over each year would see games taking place in March, September, October and November, with a June window in odd years when major tournaments do not take place.  FIFA said the calendar has “no specific dates for friendlies,” but that any non-competitive matches “can only be played within the framework of the double dates.” FIFA added that in principle, a team shall play both games of the same window in the same confederation; but stated that games can be played in two different confederations provided “precise criteria” such as flight times are fully observed, in order to avoid travel overload for players.

FIFA has declined to add the Olympics and youth tournaments to the calendar, which would then require clubs to make their players available. However, the ECA’s request that players should be restricted to one international tournament per year was not met. FIFA said players should be allowed to play in its Confederations Cup, as well as the Africa Cup of Nations and the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football’s (CONCACAF) Gold Cup. With Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, in attendance as an invited observer it was suggested that the same principles be retained for the 2019-2022 window. FIFA’s Executive Committee will discuss Monday’s proposals at its upcoming meeting on March 29-30. FIFA said in a statement: “The participants at today’s meeting unanimously stated that much progress has been made on reaching a consensus about the international match calendar.”