Horne welcomes Nations League competition

27 March 2014 11:47

UEFA's new 'Nations League' competition to replace international friendlies from 2018 has been hailed as an "exciting" development by the Football Association.

FA general secretary Alex Horne said the new competition, which will also provide four qualification places for Euro 2020, would give England some glamour ties against other top countries in Europe.

UEFA confirmed the new competition at its Congress and the 54 European member countries will be split into four divisions, with England set to be in a top division of 12 to 16 teams along with Spain, Germany, Portugal, Italy and Holland.

Horne, speaking to Press Association Sport after the UEFA Congress in Astana, Kazakhstan, said: "The prospect of England playing three or four teams from the best 12 or 16 countries in Europe on a home and away basis should be very exciting.

"It means we will go from a major tournament such as a World Cup straight into a set of three international double-headers between September and November that will really mean something.

"There will be the threat of relegation too so there will really be something at stake."

The new tournament will be played every two years on the dates currently reserved for friendlies, building up to a final in the June of odd-numbered years.

Each country will play two or three other nations in their division on a home and away basis with the winner of each mini-league going to a climax of semi-finals and final at a neutral venue.

The winner of each division will win qualification for Euro 2020, but there will be some friendly dates kept to allow countries to play preparation games before major tournaments.

It is expected that TV rights income will be organised in a similar way to the Champions League, with half the money distributed on the basis of the value of each country's TV rights and half on a more equal basis via participation payments and match bonuses.

The new competition will cause considerable change to the international calendar however, and one effect could see the final places for qualification for Euro 2020 not decided until the March, just three months before the tournament.

UEFA president Michel Platini announced the new competition at a press conference and said it would replace friendlies that "nobody wants".

Platini said: "The friendlies don't really interest anybody - neither the fans nor the players nor the media and nor the national associations.

"This is a good decision because nobody wants these friendlies."

The timing of the Nations League could conflict with proposals to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter, however.

Platini added: "I think we will adapt ourselves - the World Cup is the priority. I don't know when it will take place in 2022 but we will organise this with respect to those dates."

Source: PA