UEFA is working on a potential ‘Nations League’ competition that would see international friendlies replaced by competitive matches.
The plans, revealed in Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, remain vague but there is a “concrete proposal” to introduce the concept, which may see teams separated into divisions based on their seeding and then competing for promotion and relegation. The season would, theoretically, be played out over ten matchdays between August and June, and the winners of the top division would be crowned champions.
Yngve Hallen, president of the Norwegian Football Association (NFF), told the newspaper: “It is true that this series of games is one of the models being discussed.”
Karl-Erik Nilsson, of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), told Aftonbladet that it was an “exciting idea”, adding: “It has been established that it is difficult to get interest around friendlies.
“For 2020 it has been looked at whether it would be possible to combine traditional qualifiers with this league format, instead of friendlies, to increase interest. It is worth looking at but we were clear that it can't have an impact on the qualifiers for the Euro tournaments. The qualifiers are No. 1 and have the highest priority.”
He stressed that the competition would not result in an increase in international games but would merely allow players to “win caps in a more exciting way”.
“We have only received a short verbal presentation, so we have nothing concrete to go on,” Nilsson said. “We will take a stand on it when we receive the final draft. But the first reaction is that creating more interest would not be a bad thing.”
The Guardian reports that the European game’s governing body is seeking ways to increase TV revenue after “promising large underwritten guarantees to the biggest countries”, having taken control of TV rights for its member nations’ qualifying matches.
Hallen told Dagbladet: "The success of the Champions League has already inspired the Europa League. This is also something they are trying to look at in connection with the Nations League -- how this can sharpen the market. That's what this is largely about.”
However, he stressed that the new competition -- which may feature nine divisions in total -- would feature all member nations. Some have argued that the likes of San Marino, Andorra and Liechtenstein would benefit more from regular meetings with teams closer to their own level, rather than suffering regular heavy defeats to the top sides.
Hallen stressed that, while the market is important, “the focus needs to be on the football/competitive aspect”.
He added: “All countries should have equal opportunities. No one should have to qualify for this tournament -- everyone plays from the first game. And then there is also a recognition that the tournament form should be easy to understand for most people. All this we need to work out.”