Ligue 1 on Thursday criticised FIFA for extending the World Cup qualifying window, but stopped short of following the English Premier League, Spanish LaLiga and Italy’s Serie A, who have already prohibited clubs from releasing players.
A Ligue 1 decision to challenge FIFA would be particularly onerous for Argentina and Brazil, who are counting on PSG to release stars Lionel Messi and Neymar for key CONMEBOL September and October matches.
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The French league said in a statement that it “regrets the total lack of consideration by FIFA of the interests of national championships and clubs as employers of players.”
Ligue 1 leaders were clear that the league opposed the demands that players must be released by clubs for World Cup qualifiers despite the logistical and health challenges posed by the pandemic.
FIFA extended the international window next month to allow South American teams to play a third World Cup qualifier less than two days before domestic leagues are due to resume in Europe.
Ligue 1 backed the position of the top divisions in England, Spain and Italy as well as the World Leagues’ Forum and European Club Association in questioning the conduct of Gianni Infantino and FIFA in providing no flexibility on the release of players.
“This unilateral decision taken in the midst of a pandemic with strong constraints related to the movement of players and the resulting quarantine rules during their return from selection poses major problems for the availability of club staff and the balance of the championships,” the French league said.
It stopped short of saying there was a collective decision by clubs not to send players — as Premier League clubs had done. Infantino this week issued a statement comparing the work in dealing with the pandemic with the need for national teams to have the players they want.
“Together we have shown solidarity and unity in the fight against COVID-19,” said Infantino, who FIFA declined to make available for interview. “Now, I am urging everyone to ensure the release of international players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”
The particular challenge for English clubs releasing players to South American countries is that they are all on a red list where travel is advised against by British authorities and 10 days would have to be spent in hotel quarantine after flying back from them.
Some African nations, including Egypt, are also on the red list, which is why Liverpool was quick to block Mohamed Salah going to play World Cup qualifiers next week. CAF on Wednesday urged the U.K. to reconsider.
“It is further noted that the circumstances in the African countries on the red list in many cases are in fact less severe than other countries not currently on this list or for which exemptions were previously provided,” CAF’s statement said.
Infantino this week wrote to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for players to be granted exemptions from quarantine.
Among the South American countries, Brazil would be the most affected should the UK exemption not be granted. Their Premier League players include Alisson Becker (Liverpool) and Ederson (Manchester City); captain Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Fred (Manchester United) and Fabinho (Liverpool); as well as Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) and Richarlison (Everton).
Players returning from many European countries on Britain’s amber list would only have to quarantine at home if they have not been fully vaccinated.
Over the last year, FIFA has freed clubs during the pandemic from obligations to release all players to national teams, but that relaxation of rules has not been extended.
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.