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Sports

UEFA to set up new 'League of Nations' football tournament

Europe is set to get a new "League of Nations" football tournament to be played alongside the World Cup and European Championship UEFA officials have said. The competition would replace international friendlies.

The general secretary of European football's governing body UEFA, Gianni Infantino, said Wednesday that a new League of Nations tournament will be launched in 2018.

The competition fixtures would be held on FIFA-designated international friendly dates, for which clubs must release players to their respective national teams.

"We need to make better use as there are teams that everyone wants to play in a friendly and others who can never get an opponent, which is where this idea for a League of Nations comes from," he told reporters in Astana.

Possible Euro qualification

The competition is to be officially announced by UEFA President Michel Platini (pictured) at the body's annual congress on Thursday in Kazakhstan. Infantino said that the League of Nations was almost certainly going to be passed.

The tournament is part of a general review UEFA conducts of the football calendar.

"We have been looking into optimizing the structure of the calendar without bringing in any more dates," Infantino said.

The competition would end in a "final four" tournament with two semi-finals and a final taking place at a neutral venue on odd-numbered years.

Officials with knowledge of the tournament told media that divisions with promotion and relegation based on results would be established. It would guarantee matches between top-ranked countries and come with rewards like possible direct qualification for the European Championship.

Tougher match-fixing stance

UEFA also on Thursday is set to introduce a tougher policy on match-fixing. The body wants individual countries to make "sports fraud" a crime and make life bans possible.

"Police often say that they have more pressing matters, but if it was a crime this would be different," said Infantino.

UEFA must also have the ability to "investigate at any moment," he added.

Of the 32,000 matches monitored by UEFA last year, just 0.7 percent set off an alert, which does not necessarily mean match-fixing occurred.

"That is still 0.7 too many," Infantino said, adding that UEFA didn't believe match-fixing was taking place at the top level of major leagues.

The body will launch an "education" campaign to encoring players, coaches and referees with knowledge of game manipulations to inform the police, said Infantino.

dr/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters)