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Winter league for Nordic nations

Published: Monday 5 April 2004, 17.50CET
A league featuring the top four sides from Denmark, Norway and Sweden will begin in November this year. features

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Published: Monday 5 April 2004, 17.50CET

Winter league for Nordic nations

A league featuring the top four sides from Denmark, Norway and Sweden will begin in November this year.
A new Scandinavian league featuring the top four sides from Denmark, Norway and Sweden will kick off on 20 November this year.

Press conferences
The football associations of the three countries and representatives from their leading clubs unveiled the new competition - called the Royal League - at press conferences in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm today.

'UEFA does not object'
The tournament, which has been approved by UEFA, will run from November 2004 to April 2005. A UEFA spokesman said: "UEFA does not object to a proposal such as this, which is for a tournament during the close season. It is an initiative which will keep Scandinavian players active during the winter months."

Leagues unaffected
The league season in Denmark, which has an autumn/spring format with a winter break, and those in Norway and Sweden, which take place in the spring and summer, would be unaffected by the new competition.

Niels Christian Holmstrøm, sporting director of Danish champions FC København, said: "From the point of view of FC København we are looking forward to the matches against the other top Scandinavian teams. This can only mean an improvement in Scandinavian football."

Swedish reaction
Those sentiments were echoed by his Swedish and Norwegian counterparts. Swedish Football Association president Lars Åke Lagrell said: "It has become more and more difficult for Scandinavian teams to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

'Best conditions'
"Through the Royal League we have created the best possible conditions for Scandinavian teams to achieve a strength which will enable them to get further in European competitions than they do today."

More matches
Norwegian Football Association president Sondre Kåfjord said: "In Norway we have been working on extending the season for a long time, even though we do not have the climate. This competition means more matches - and more exciting matches for our clubs. It is an obvious challenge for our clubs."

Twelve teams
The 12 participating teams - who will be the four best from the 2003/04 or 2004 domestic seasons - will be drawn into three groups. The best two teams in each section will qualify for a second group stage comprising two groups of three. The winners of these latter groups will contest the final of the first Royal League on 22 April next year.

Last updated: 06/04/04 9.44CET

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