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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Europe's top football clubs call for 'mandatory rest periods' and changes to FFP investigations

European Club Association meeting in Rome was attended by Fifa president Infantino and Uefa counterpart Ceferin

Fifa president Gianni Infantino leaves at the end of European Club Association's (ECA) general assembly. Alessandra Tarantino / AP Photo
Fifa president Gianni Infantino leaves at the end of European Club Association's (ECA) general assembly. Alessandra Tarantino / AP Photo

Europe's top clubs have called for "mandatory rest periods" for players and faster investigations of teams that may have breached financial fair play rules, the European Club Association (ECA) has announced.

The global fixtures calendar and European football's financial rules were the main points of debate at the ECA's 20th general assembly in Rome on Tuesday.

The organisation, which was created from the ashes of the G-14 group of Europe's richest clubs, represents 230 teams from across the continent.

Speaking at a press conference that was streamed online, chairman Andrea Agnelli said the ECA is football's "entrepreneurial body that invests in the game, running risks on a daily basis".

As a result, Agnelli said the clubs have the right to help "redraft" the game's calendar from 2024 onward.

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"We to find a balance between games that are relevant and unpredictable, while defining the competitive balance and 'keeping the dream alive'," said Agnelli, who is also the chairman of Juventus.

"But this means preserving the status of the main actors, the players, by reducing the number of games, introducing mandatory rest periods, finding a viable international calendar and recalibrating the confederations' championships."

That last point is a reference to the fact the African Cup of Nations and Concacaf Gold Cup are held every two years, while Asian, European and now South American football, too, hold their championships every four years.

The issue of reducing the overall number of games in the calendar has been discussed throughout the game for years but persuading clubs, leagues, member associations, confederations and Fifa to actually give up fixtures has been the stumbling block.

Agnelli said the ECA wants to ensure players and coaches have more time to rest and train, and has asked Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who attended the general assembly, to add to the only mandatory rest period currently on the calendar: one week, every four years, before a World Cup.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin al also in attendance at the European Club Association's (ECA) 20th General Assembly. Alessandra Tarantino / AP Photo
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin al also in attendance at the European Club Association's (ECA) 20th General Assembly. Alessandra Tarantino / AP Photo

Also in Rome this week was Infantino's Uefa counterpart, Aleksander Ceferin, and he was given much to think about with the ECA's suggestions for "FFP 2.0", an update on the financial rules that have governed European club football since 2010.

With many ECA members, most notably Barcelona, still smarting at Paris Saint-Germain's £350 million (Dh1.82 billion) summer spree on Brazilian forward Neymar and French teenager Kylian Mbappe, the clubs want Uefa to be able to launch FFP investigations far quicker than the current rules allow.

As the spending limits are based on club revenues, Uefa must wait for a club to publish its annual accounts before starting an inquiry. This typically means a delay of more than 18 months, as is likely to be the case for PSG.

ECA executive board member and Anderlecht director Michael Verschueren explained that the clubs want "to shorten the gap" by establishing two "early indicators" that would trigger an expedited investigation.

He said these would be a "sustainable debt ratio" based on a club's net debt and earnings, and a maximum annual net transfer spend of €100m (Dh455.6m).

Verschueren also said the ECA wants Uefa to improve transparency by publishing more club data, including the amount paid to agents, and ensure that every club is using the same accounting methods.

Away from fixture congestion and transfer spending, Agnelli said the ECA agreed with Uefa that next season is too early for the use of video assistant referees in European club competition but he described it as an "irresistible process" that would be in place for the following season.