European clubs protest to FIFA over extended World Cup player release

FIFA World Cup
REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

European clubs have accused world soccer body FIFA of abusing its regulatory function in a row over the extended-release of players for World Cup qualifiers in September and October.

Premier League sides will be particularly hard hit by FIFA’s decision to extend a mandatory release period from nine to 11 days to enable triple-headers in South America and also by strict England’s quarantine rules.

Liverpool has already refused to allow Mohamed Salah to travel to Africa for World Cup qualifiers with Egypt next month because he would be forced to quarantine on his return to England.

Liverpool has refused to allow Mohamed Salah to travel to Africa for World Cup qualifiers with Egypt next month.Reuters/Lee Smith

With World Cup qualifiers in Africa, Asia, the CONCACAF region, Europe, and South America, the clubs are on a potential collision course with FIFA.

The European Club Association (ECA) wrote to members, in a Q&A document reported by The Times newspaper and also seen by Reuters, saying FIFA had taken decisions unilaterally and “against the explicit objection of ECA and the rest of the stakeholders.

“ECA has firmly expressed its objection to FIFA’s decision and has urged FIFA to review its position,” it said.

“ECA will not accept that a governing body like FIFA abuses its regulatory function in order to place its commercial interests and those of its member associations above the physical wellbeing of players and legitimate sporting interests of clubs.”

England’s quarantine requirements could affect Liverpool’s Brazilian trio of Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker, and Fabinho, who have been called up for next month’s qualifiers against Chile, Argentina, and Peru.

Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Peru are all on the British government’s ‘red list’ of countries that trigger a 10-day hotel quarantine on return.

The ECA said FIFA had decided this month, at the request of South American confederation CONMEBOL, to extend the mandatory release period “in complete disregard to the clubs’ interests”.

England’s quarantine requirements could affect Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino.Reuters/Peter Cziborra

It said FIFA was unlikely to change its decision and the ECA would have to consider what action to take.

There was no immediate comment from FIFA.

The BBC reported that the Football Association and Premier League were in discussion with the government over a relaxation of Britain’s quarantine rules.


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