NYON, Switzerland – A threatened split between UEFA and a group representing Europe’s top clubs appears to have been averted after talks to extend their working relationship beyond 2014.
UEFA hailed “positive and constructive” talks with European Club Association leaders on Monday over renewing a “Memo of Understanding” which commits clubs to field teams in the Champions League and release players for national team matches.
A failure in negotiations could lead to clubs creating a breakaway competition to rival UEFA’s signature club competitions.
“We are confident we can come to a positive agreement,” UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said Wednesday after a meeting of the executive committee.
The executive committee also agreed to continue monitoring Serbia and Croatia for six more months until security at matches improves.
The meeting between UEFA and the European Club Association came days after similar talks with FIFA, which has been less willing to meet their demands.
Infantino said talks included an insurance policy to cover the salaries of players injured on national team duty, the FIFA-approved calendar of international matches and governance of world football.
The “worst-case scenario” of a Champions League breakaway could not be ruled out before a final co-operation agreement was reached, Infantino said.
Still, “all the clubs agree the Champions League is the best competition for clubs in the world — and it will remain like this in future,” he said.
Infantino reported progress on helping clubs pay the salary of players injured on international duty.
The issue was highlighted by Bayern Munich when it lost Netherlands winger Arjen Robben for six months after he returned injured from the 2010 World Cup.
“We will find a good solution with regards to insurance because we think it’s the right thing to do,” Infantino said.
The 200-member ECA has put relations with FIFA and UEFA at the top of its agenda at a Feb. 27-28 meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
After a series of violent incidents involving fans in Serbia and Croatia, UEFA President Michel Platini warned governments there last year that their national and club teams faced exclusion from competitions if they failed to crack down on hooliganism.
“In spite of some effort, more needs to be done,” Infantino said Wednesday.
In other decisions, UEFA said bidding will open in April for its centrally controlled broadcasting rights to screen qualifying matches for the 2016 European Championship.
The Under-21 European Championship tournament will switch to even number years after 2015 to synchronize qualifying matches with senior team competitions. UEFA’s 53 member federations had requested the change.
Also, the Under-17 tournament will increase to 16 teams from eight, UEFA said.