Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of football’s European governing body Uefa, said that the English Football Association is the only one of its 53 member nations that has not yet finalised its involvement in the new centralised media rights model for qualifying matches for the European Championships and World Cups.
Infantino said he expected the FA to finalise its agreement with Uefa soon, allowing the continental governing body to issue a tender for the rights in the next fortnight. The tender will cover the qualification matches for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
Infantino played down the significance of the delay in the English FA agreement, saying: “The sticking points are minor rights details, radio rights and so on. It is a matter of sitting around the table and discussing that. We have reached agreement with 52 out of the 53 countries so there is no reason why we should not agree with England. We still have a couple of days and there are just a couple of minor points.”
All 53 Uefa member associations, including the English FA, signed an initial mandate to implement the centralisation last year.
The centralisation project was one of Uefa president Michel Platini’s key initiatives when he secured a second term in office in March 2011.
Euro 2016, hosted by France, will be the first edition of the event to have 24 teams, expanded from the 16-team format that has been in place since 1996. Infantino dismissed suggestions that the larger competition would be less attractive for broadcast partners.
“I think it will be just the opposite,” he said. “While the big countries should qualify as expected, a lot of smaller countries will have a lot more to play for chasing the extra qualifying places. Don’t forget the associations voted in this change. I am sure the qualifiers will be far more competitive as a result.”