UEFA to back Nations League, fixing sanctions

MIKE COLLETT
Last updated 07:03 27/03/2014

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UEFA are expected to announce the introduction of a new Nations League for national teams from 2018 and tougher, Europe-wide sanctions against match fixing at their Congress on Thursday.

The annual meeting of the 54 member associations will almost certainly endorse both proposals when they vote in the snowy capital of the central Asian country of Kazakhstan.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told a media briefing on Wednesday that Michel Platini's presidential speech at the opening of the Congress would provide a turning point for European soccer.

UEFA's executive committee will put both proposals to delegates, some of whom have travelled more than 5000 kilometres (3100 miles) to reach Astana, the futuristic city that rises isolated on the flat Kazakh steppe.

Although the exact details have yet to be revealed, the Nations League competition 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.

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.

Infantino said the details would be announced at Congress.

"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."

MATCH FIXING

Infantino 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.

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"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."

The Congress was awarded to Kazakhstan three years ago as part of President Platini's aim of opening the doors of UEFA's events to all its members, even if, as with Astana, the venue is six hours ahead of GMT and closer to Shanghai than Paris.

Kazakhstan became members of UEFA when they left the Asian confederation in 2002.

- Reuters

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