Hassan Al Thawadi presents World Cup plans to Rummenigge and ECA officials in the Legacy Pavilion, Doha (ECA)

(WFI) The European Club Association has thrown its support behind UEFA’s club competition model.

Representatives from 153 member clubs attended the ECA’s 10th General Assembly in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday.

Ahead of the UEFA Club Competitions Cycle 2015-18, a total of 87 ECA members from 36 national associations responded to a survey on the future of both the Champions League and Europa League.

• 75% expressed their “satisfaction” or “extreme satisfaction” with the current structure/format of UEFA’s club competitions;
• 92% believe that the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League should continue to exist in parallel;
• 61% would welcome offering the UEFA Europa League Winner/Finalists direct access to the UEFA Champions League group stage.

The ECA said in a statement that the survey results “clearly show that European clubs are very happy with the current competitions and do not wish to see major changes to their structure/format”.

“The option whereby the UEFA Europa League winner/finalists automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage of the new season raised some interest and support provided that the effects on the access list are carefully considered,” it added.

Qatar 2022 chief Hassan Al Thawadi and comms director Nasser Al Khater presented the Gulf state’s World Cup hosting plans to ECA chair Karl Heinz Rummenigge and the board.

A Qatar spokesman told INSIDER that the presentation covered the progress made in “implementing bid promises” made to FIFA in its hosting concept.

Under the current summer World Cup plans, Al Thawadi’s address included details of how the stadia are being designed with cooling technologies to protect players and fans the fierce desert heat.

Despite calls led by UEFA president Michel Platini to switch the 2022 tournament to the winter months to avoid the sizzling temperatures, Qatar and FIFA appear happy to stick to the summer concept – at least for the time being.

“The clubs have a responsibility towards their players; therefore, ECA was happy to accept this invitation,” Rummenigge said.

“It is important to get a first impression which is based on personal experience and not driven by third parties.”

Rummenigge is sure to be asked about the ECA’s support for Qatar’s summer World Cup plans at a press conference on Wednesday.

All ECA members were offered the opportunity to visit the Qatar 2022 Legacy Pavilion, which presents all aspects of the World cup project.

The ECA’s two-day gathering in Doha coincides with the association’s 5th anniversary.

Rummenigge points to the ECA’s significant progress for European club football in that timeframe, saying the organization had developed constructive relationships with other stakeholders within the European football family, most notably UEFA.

The two-day general assembly concludes on Wednesday with a press conference (ECA)

Rummenigge praised members in his address to the general assembly.

“ECA’s development is remarkable, but we should not rest on our laurels as there are still challenges lying ahead of us,” he said.

Among the challenges are club compliance with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

An update was given to members on FFP.

The ECA statement said clubs were reminded of ECA’s support for the new regulations and “told to adhere to the rules which are seen as essential in ensuring the sustainable development of club football”.

“The clubs were reminded of the upcoming deadlines which need to be respected. These include the need to provide information relating to the overdue payables and the break-even rule by the summer of 2013,” the ECA said.

Third-Party Ownership Stirs Debate

ECA members also responded to the idea floated within UEFA and FIFA to ban third-party ownership of players’ economic rights (TPO).

UEFA’s head of licensing Andrea Traverso and Daniel Lorenz Pereira, legal director of FC Porto spoke about the issues before discussions took place.

The ECA said the debate “proved very lively emphasizing the importance of this issue for a number of clubs”.

“It was made clear that TPO is a very complex phenomenon as there are many different aspects to the way it operates. Consequently, there is no unanimity among ECA Members as to whether TPO should be banned or not,” the ECA said.

“ECA will further assess the merits and impact of TPO on the game and the repercussions of a possible ban. ECA will continue to engage and work alongside UEFA and FIFA on this matter.”

Other developments at the ECA’s general assembly included a decision to create a women’s committee to capitalise on the growing interest in the women’s game in recent years. It will be chaired by Jean-Michel Aulas of Olympique Lyonnais.

The committee will offer a platform allowing for European women’s club football matters to be discussed and eventually brought up at UEFA/FIFA level. The ECA will aim to develop membership services for member clubs with a women’s section.
The inaugural meeting is scheduled to take place on the day of the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final in London on May 23.

The ECA general assembly concludes on Wednesday with a dedicated workshop for non-European clubs. For the first time, and in response to the positive feedback received from clubs around the world following ECA’s achievements, it has decided to share its experience/knowledge with clubs from other confederations.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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