BELGRADE: UEFA president Michel Platini has asked European lawmakers to help protect national teams from “selfish behaviour” by clubs who tried to put obstacles in the way of  players representing their countries.

Platini told sports ministers at a meeting called by the 47-nation Council of Europe that national teams were “experiencing difficult times” despite being part of Europe’s cultural heritage. He added: “Their legitimacy is undermined by the reluctance of some [clubs] to release players.”

UEFA is looking to raise further revenues from a centralised marketing system for TV rights for national team competitive qualifying matches in the World Cup and European Championship.

Platini said: “I am convinced that selfish behaviour must be replaced by dignified legal solutions. This is the next task at hand. Spain has established the compulsory release of national team players as a principle in its national legislation. Such an initiative proves one thing: that it is possible to put an end to this problem.”

Platini was speaking ahead of UEFA Congress in Istanbul next week when he is expected to sign a new accord with the European Club Association to secure a stable working relationship through to May 2018.

To bring the clubs to the table UEFA has had to concede a significantly expanded slice of Euro 2012 revenues.

Platini also repeated an earlier call for sports ministers to support action on match-fixing and club finances. He said “Last September I came to you to decry an evil that is destroying the glorious uncertainty of sport, namely online betting-related match-fixing. Match-fixing has caused serious alarm, I would say tremendous fear even. Fear, because behind each of these matches lurk organised criminal networks and these criminal networks exploit loopholes in the law to ransack entire competitions.

“Match-fixing is a matter of law and order. It cannot be resolved, therefore, using the resources of sports bodies alone. Europe must work together in the face of match-fixing. I therefore request immediate assistance from the member states of the Council of Europe: match-fixing must be made a criminal offence. Match-fixing must be outlawed.

“With the same conviction, I would also say that there must be effective cooperation between the police and judicial authorities of European countries to destroy the strength of these criminals. I am convinced that the wisest way of protecting the integrity of our sports is international cooperation. I am in favour of an international convention on match-fixing. This convention would, of course, be just one step towards sincerity and integrity in sport. But it would also be an indispensable step and strong evidence of our intent.”

Platini also told Ministers of the progress being made with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play control, which start to bite this year. He expressed a concern that its implementation might be undermined by clubs seeking legal redress against UEFA.

He  said that, in 2010, European clubs had accumulated losses of more than €1.6bn and added: “These figures illustrate the fragility of the system itself, which has turned some of these clubs into gigantic casinos.

“We need to lead football towards financial discipline. We need financial fair play. I can sum up this approach with two common-sense principles: ‘live within your means’ and ‘there is a limit beyond which you must not go’. The situation has become untenable. We are therefore taking action. I ask one thing of you: to protect Financial Fair Play. I am asking you to replace dangerous uncertainties with legal solutions.”

Platini did not indicate in his address whether he was taking advantage of the Belgrade venue of the conference to seek a resolution on the contentious sporting identity of neighbours Kosovo.

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