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UEFA'S 'Nations League' could hurt FAI

THE FAI could end up counting the cost of UEFA's decision today to approve a new 'Nations League' tournament for national teams which may deprive countries like Ireland of money-spinning friendly games.

UEFA, under president Michel Platini, have tinkered with the game at various levels in recent years, such as killing off the Cup Winners' Cup and Intertoto Cup and also expanding the European Championship finals to 24 teams, and now national teams have another idea to grapple with as UEFA's congress in Kazakhstan earlier today approved a new tournament, with UEFA stating that the new scheme "will replace most international friendlies".

Starting in 2018, the UEFA Nations League will effectively replace international friendly games and will be run across four divisions, with promotion and relegation being used, UEFA claiming that they want to streamline the international football calendar.

While the exact details have not yet been worked out, as UEFA wait for feedback from the member nations, the new tournament will be used instead of the current play-off system for teams to qualify for the European Championship finals.

"We accept and respect that all UEFA member associations have agreed to create a new competition," said Wolfgang Niersbach, chairman of the National Teams Competition Committee today.

"This is a big step for national teams in Europe and we hope that fans will support the new format."

UEFA said the key driver behind the Nations League is "sporting integrity", saying there is an increasing feeling in the game that international friendlies do not provide adequate competition.