November 13, 2012

GENEVA (AP) -- Top football clubs from 90 countries have been invited to a conference in Qatar, and assess preparations for the 2022 World Cup.

The 207-member European Club Association (ECA) said Wednesday it has asked 65 clubs from 37 other countries to attend its six-monthly assembly being held Feb. 4-6 in Doha.

Invited clubs include South American champion Corinthians, River Plate, plus Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls from Major League Soccer, ECA spokesman Marc Schmidgall told The Associated Press.

"ECA is the only organization of its kind in the world of football, so maybe clubs from other continents are interested in reproducing our model,'' Schmidgall said.

The event will also work as a fact-finding visit for clubs, some of which could potentially oppose changing the schedule for the 2022 tournament.

UEFA President Michel Platini has led calls for Qatar to move the tournament to November-December dates in the European midseason, to avoid the hot summer months.

After meeting World Cup organizers in Geneva in September, ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said his members were "very curious'' about seeing Qatar's preparations.

The group, which has members from each of Europe's 53 football nations, has become an influential power broker in world football since being recognized by FIFA and UEFA in 2008 as the democratic voice of European clubs.

Rummenigge, the Bayern Munich chairman, has been an outspoken critic of FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter while campaigning on issues such as the calendar of international matches which dictate when clubs must release players for national duty.

European lobbying has helped clubs across the world get a promised $70 million share of FIFA revenues from the 2014 World Cup, and persuaded FIFA to fund an insurance policy covering the salaries of players injured in national team matches.

The ECA signed an improved working agreement with UEFA in March which ensured clubs a greater share of European Championship revenues and a right to be consulted on changes to the Champions League.

"Following the signing of the (agreement) with UEFA, we received a lot of positive feedback, also from outside Europe,'' Schmidgall said. "Therefore, we felt it could be interesting to share our knowledge and experience with non-European clubs.''

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