During the ECA Executive Committee’s first meeting of 2024 in Doha, the organisation’s chairman, Nasser Al Khelaifi, hailed the partnerships with UEFA and FIFA, signalling the growing presence of European football on the world stage.
Against the backdrop of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in Doha well underway, a European Club Association (ECA) Executive Committee meeting was held in Qatar’s capital on Tuesday to discuss the organisation’s strategic development.
Speaking on the success of the AFC tournament so far, the ECA’s chairman, Nasser Al Khelaifi, said he was proud of the work that has gone into his country hosting the largest continental football event.
During a press conference after the ECA’s meeting, Al Khelaifi added that Executive Committee (ExCo) members were also impressed by Qatar’s skills in hosting sporting events.
ExCo members also said sporting tournaments hosted in Qatar are enhanced by the nation’s wealth of cultural heritage, generosity and hospitality that exudes from Qatari citizens and residents.
This sentiment was also expressed during the association’s first official visit to Doha in 2022 amid the FIFA World Cup games.
A meeting was also held during this visit, which saw the attendance of the AFC’s President, Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, FIFA’s Deputy General Secretary, Mattias Grafström, and UEFA’s General Secretary, Theodore Theodoridis, among others.
During the 2022 ExCo meeting, Al Khelaifi remarked Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup had made football “more global and more complex.”
He added that thanks to the ECA’s strong partnership with FIFA, football is now “more inclusive, more exciting and more inspiring.”
European presence in international football
According to the ECA’s news release about Tuesday’s ExCo meeting, 113 European club players are participating in the AFC tournament. This figure represents almost 20% of all footballers taking part in the games.
The news release added that this was indicative of the ECA’s increasing global reach – especially given that it has strong partnerships with UEFA and FIFA.
In September last year, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was renewed between the ECA and UEFA.
This extended the mutual agreement between the two bodies, whereby UEFA will recognise the ECA as the sole representative of football clubs at a European level. Meanwhile, the ECA will continue to recognise UEFA as the governing body for football in Europe.
After the MoU was renewed, UEFA’s President, Aleksander Čeferin, said the agreement would ensure “continuity, stability and healthy growth that will benefit every corner of Europe”.
The UEFA chief also thanked Al Khulaifi and the ECA’s ExCo for their efforts in seeing the renewed agreement come to fruition.
Last year also saw the ECA renew an MoU with FIFA. In March, Al Khulaifi and FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, inked an agreement whereby clubs are to adhere to the International Match Calendar set out by the FIFA Council.
As part of the agreement, which also extends until 2030, the ECA confirmed their support for the new FIFA Club World Cup from 2025, which will feature 12 European clubs.
Hailing the ECA-FIFA partnership on Tuesday, Al Khulaifi said, “[The] ECA’s remit now runs much further than just Europe as our MoU with FIFA demonstrates by benefitting clubs globally via mechanisms such as the club benefits programme.”
The FIFA Club Benefits Programme enables for the distribution of revenues from the FIFA Men’s World Cup to all clubs releasing players.
The ECA’s chairman added that football stakeholders needed to continue building positive partnerships based on a win-win outlook.
Tuesday’s ECA ExCo meeting came as the association’s membership nears a 500 club milestone.
According to the ECA’s chairman, “These gatherings of the ECA’s senior leadership are so important as the organisation continues to grow at a rapid pace and we approach 500 clubs.”