A NEW ‘League of Nations’ tournament to replace international friendlies has been backed by Scotland and welcomed for giving smaller countries a “second bite of the cherry” in their bid to qualify for the World Cup and European Championship.
Uefa’s Congress in Kazakhstan is today expected to approve the creation of a competition that would be played biennially in odd-numbered years on the dates currently reserved for friendlies, and involve the establishment of four divisions. The top three would comprise 14 teams, with the fourth featuring 16 teams. Scotland’s ranking cannot be determined now, a full four years before the first international league is scheduled, but it is likely that Scotland would be in the second or third tier.
The new tournament would not replace the current qualifying competitions for the Euros, but it would award four qualification spots that are currently decided by the play-offs. World Cup qualifying spots would be available in the top two divisions. Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, said he was convinced of the merits of the plan after some initial reservations.
Since it was first suggested, Uefa have refined the plan to include a system of financial payments that will help countries in the lower divisions.
Regan said: “When the idea was first proposed we were not particularly enthusiastic but since then the idea has beendeveloped and it will give smaller nations a second bite of the cherry for qualification.
“We will support it but the challenge will be to market it in a way fans can understand it.”
Regan said there may also be a chance for countries such as Scotland to host Uefa-backed friendly tournaments on the dates not included as part of the Nations League schedule.
Maximising revenue is believed to be a driver in the proposal, with the international top tier providing more broadcast-friendly games that can be sold by individual nations.