UEFA plans to overhaul international calendar could be a winner

UEFA’s forward thinking president, Michel Platini, is in discussions with Sepp Blatter and FIFA about a plan that would see all domestic football across the world take place between March and November, with international competitions in January and February.

But this plan is not quite as far fetched as it may seem on paper. It is the separation of the conflict that occurs between international and domestic football and would limit the amount of football domestic calendars could fit. It will come up against particularly fierce competition from the Premier League, who rely on huge commercial revenue generated from its TV audiences. And the FA would have to find a way to fit two domestic cups into what would be an increasingly crowded calendar.

FIFA have always said that domestic football leagues should be limited to 16 or 18 teams and on this they are for once, right. There is too much football and it is to the detriment of the quality of the game – though that makes one wonder why Sepp Blatter was so keen to introduce a World Cup every two years once. But if this forces the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A to downsize to 18 teams, that can only be a positive thing. If it forces England and France to scrap one of their cup competitions, that would similarly be welcome – two domestic cup competitions were exciting 15 years ago, before money stretched the gap between the best and the rest and European football was less frequent. In those days it did not cause fixture congestion or lead to the same teams contesting most finals each year.

But the principle of unifying the world football calendar has some other benefits other than alleviating fixture congestion. It would mean that the World Cup and European Championship would take place during January and February. Playing a competition after the players have been properly rested and during what would usually be cooler months, unless the World Cup is hosted in Australia, would lead to an improvement in the quality of the football. It is this which is probably at the heart of the Platini lead idea, and it is a noble objective. It seeks to place international football back at the top of the international football hierarchy, above the Champions League. It probably won’t work, but it is a noble principle at least, and for once it is hard to argue that it is an idea driven by money.

It is a plan which will inevitably provoke anger amongst those ideologically opposed to change; football romantics who like football as it is, or as it was 30 years ago. The one practical obstacle are the Olympic Games, which would stay in June and which traditionally host a football tournament. But there is the suggestion that neither the Olympics or Football need each other, and a mutual divorce of the two may not see many tears shed outside of Brazil, who love the sport’s role in the Olympic Games and are bizarrely yet to win the competition.

So whilst the plan is quite a way off still, it is one of the more intriguing to have passed through the UEFA or FIFA headquarters in recent years. Bringing the international football calendar into line, eliminating the friction between international and domestic football and improving the quality of international tournaments could be a winner.