European soccer’s governing body is planning to broadcast six consecutive days of national team qualification matches as part of a new centralized media and marketing program.
Gianni Infantino, general secretary of Nyon, Switzerland-based UEFA, said the move to take control of qualifiers for international tournaments like the World Cup and European champions was the “the biggest sporting project of UEFA since the creation of the Champions League in 1992.”
“We think we should raise the status of national team football, raise it to the top level,” Infantino told an audience at the Leaders in Football conference at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge in London.
The proposal means national sides could play Thursday, Friday or Saturday and followed by another game two days later, with the final match taking place on Tuesday. Infantino said UEFA wanted to create a brand for the national qualifiers similar to the Champions League, which has its own anthem, a group of sponsors and fixed kick-off times on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The group’s main decision-making body needs to agree to the proposal before they can come into force. Infantino said that’s likely to be a formality after UEFA’s 53-member associations “unanimously” supported it at a meeting in Cyprus last month.
Centralizing the rights allows smaller nations to focus on soccer development without having to fret about drawing a popular national team like England or Germany to boost revenue, Infantino said.
UEFA’s plan for centralization has met resistance from the European Club Association, a body that represents about 200 of the continent’s top teams. They argue that the governing body has pushed ahead with its program without consulting teams and is likely to provide competition for broadcast and sponsorship partners.
“They are going to the same pockets in Europe,” Umberto Gandini, an ECA board member and director of Italy’s AC Milan said in an interview in July. “The pockets that are paying for the Champions League in 2014, they are going to have UEFA who’s going to offer them, against interest of clubs, the centralized activities of the national teams.”
Qualification matches for the 2016 European Championship in France will be the first to be marketed centrally and appear under the “Week of Football” banner.