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Sep 20, 2011

EPFL wants more control

Europe's football leagues have issued a joint statement making public their wish for greater input into FIFA and UEFA's governance of world football and labelling the current international calendar "unsustainable".

• UEFA risks Champions League uprising
• FIFA ready to reduce international calendar

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), which comprises every major league on the continent, held a meeting in Poland on Tuesday that included the heads of the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A.

ESPNsoccernet broke the story last week that the Champions League itself will become a battleground for control of vital issues such as the number of international games as well as the representation the clubs and the leagues are demanding within the corridors of power of UEFA and FIFA.

In an official statement released on Tuesday, the EPFL said: "Football governance reform was at the top of the agenda of an important meeting for the board of directors of the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) held today in Poland's capital city Warsaw.

"The board of directors has reaffirmed that the need to implement long-overdue reforms to enhance football governance standards is greater than ever and must not continue to be postponed.

"Voicing the common views and longstanding aspirations of the major 30 European football leagues and more than 900 clubs across the continent, the EPFL requests FIFA, and UEFA, to take effective measures to ensure greater participative and representative democracy, accountability and transparency, with direct representation of the leagues and other key stakeholders in their decision-making structures.

"The EPFL board of directors has reiterated the leagues' willingness to continue working with FIFA and UEFA in a positive and constructive fashion to promote the needed reforms. The EPFL considers that the 'football family' must live up to its name and that more needs to be done to effectively integrate crucial stakeholders in the discussions and decisions of matters in which they have serious concerns and legitimate interests.

"The EPFL Board recalls the announcement made by the FIFA president that measures would be taken to restore the credibility and enhance democracy and transparency of decision-making processes both within FIFA and the global game. The EPFL hopes that FIFA will reform in the ways that president Blatter has promised and remains more than willing to play an active and constructive role in this context.

"The outcome of the strategy discussions UEFA and its member associations are holding this week on this topic is awaited with interest by the EPFL. The EPFL board believes that the time is right for UEFA and its 53 member associations to 'lead by example' and turn a new and positive page in the governance of European and world football.

"This will not undermine in any way the role of FIFA, its confederations and member associations. On the contrary, not only will this contribute to better decision-making and problem-solving within the football family but [also] to greater cohesion and support for the governing structures."

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Club Association (ECA), said earlier this month that FIFA must reduce the number of international fixtures and the EPFL has added its support to those measures.

The statement continued: "The EPFL considers that the over-commercialisation of national team matches has led the international calendar to turn into the unsustainable situation in which it is now and call[s] on FIFA to review it, together with all stakeholders, in order to alleviate the existing overburden, safeguard players' health and facilitate the leagues' fixture planning.

"The EPFL believes that it is vital to find a proper balance between national team and club football and, therefore, would be forced to oppose any attempt to increase dates for international matches in detriment to the national championships which are the 'bread and butter' of more than 900 football clubs across Europe.

"The board pointed out that the current situation is critical and stressed that the leagues cannot afford to lose any more dates, in particular weekend dates, for national team matches. The EPFL board has also reiterated that the leagues will not accept any decision being taken regarding the international calendar without their previous consultation and agreement." In its 'Global Strategy Plan' for the current season, the following priorities were set out:

• Good governance (including democracy, transparency, accountability and proper representation of the key stakeholders in the decision-making bodies of international sports federations)
• Financial transparency, stability and solidarity
• Integrity of sport (including sports betting regulation and zero tolerance policy against match-fixing)
• Sustainable development of the Leagues business models (including the protection of intellectual property rights and promotion of new business opportunities for the Leagues)

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