Premier League clubs “unanimously” refuse to release 60 players for World Cup qualifiers

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Fifa wanted the British government to relax its quarantine rules, as it did for VIPs and others during the climax of this summer’s European Championship at Wembley.

But ministers ruled out a repeat after their stance on the euro – which came amid threats that Wembley would be deprived of the semi-finals and the final – was met with a fierce public backlash.

The government has also refused to ease quarantine restrictions for Champions League games last season, including the final, in which several games were moved at short notice.

But the prospect of the World Cup qualifiers in a Red List country being replaced by an Orange List country was played down on Tuesday by those close to the ongoing crisis.

Clubs were confident on Tuesday night to avoid sanctions for refusing to release players, with the European Club Association telling its members that forcing them to do so would be “unreasonable”.

He added that he believed that Fifa was “not likely to impose consequences on clubs, in particular for fear of a backlash from public opinion” and that “clubs would have good reason to challenge such consequences “and argued that their duty of care as the employer would require him to ask the player not to travel.

Questions and answers on the evolution of the club versus country crisis

By Ben Rumsby

How did this club-to-country crisis come about?

Premier League clubs have refused to release players for next month’s World Cup qualifiers who would be forced to quarantine hotels against coronaviruses. A number of matches are played in countries on the UK’s red list and, under government rules, those returning must pay to self-isolate for 10 days at a designated hotel. This would see them miss several games for their clubs after the international break.

The players concerned are Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Alisson, Fabino, Ederson and Gabriel Jesus, with Liverpool and Manchester City being the first two teams to rule out their release to play in the countries on the red list. English Football League teams are expected to join their Premier League counterparts on Wednesday. Foreign clubs could also refuse to release players, with the European Club Association (ECA) and the World League Forum having clearly expressed their opposition to such summons.

What did the Premier League say about it?

“If it was necessary to quarantine on the return of Red List countries, not only the well-being and fitness of the players would be significantly affected, but they would also be unavailable to prepare and play in two rounds of the match. of the Premier League, a matchday of UEFA club competition and the third round of the EFL Cup. This period takes into account 10 days of hotel quarantine upon return to England, but does not include additional time that would be required for players to regain their physical shape. “

What are the player release rules for internationals?

Under Fifa rules, clubs must release players called up by countries during designated international windows. Any team refusing to do so may be banned from fielding that player for five days after the window closes. But those regulations ignore something like the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen governments impose rules designed to prevent the virus from crossing borders. Fifa made a temporary amendment to their rules last year to allow clubs to refuse to release players if it required them to be quarantined, but that amendment expired earlier this year.

Why did Fifa not extend the amendment?

Fifa have so far sought to postpone their most significant World Cup qualifiers during the coronavirus crisis, which means countries have not been deprived of their best players for their most important games. Indeed, one could argue that this made the temporary rule change largely redundant. But FIFA’s hopes that the coronavirus crisis has subsided enough for normal service to resume have been dashed and there is almost no room for maneuver if all qualifying matches are to be played before the start of the season. World Cup.

What is Fifa’s position now?

He wants the UK government to relax its quarantine rules for under 100 players who would be affected, as ministers have done for VIPs and others attending the European Championship climax, including the chairman of Fifa Gianni Infantino. But the government has confirmed there will not be such a repeat after its stance on the euro – which came amid the threat that Wembley would be deprived of the semi-finals and the final – was met with a violent public reaction. With England and the other home nations unaffected by the dispute, there is simply nothing for ministers to relax the rules. Redlist exemptions from other sports and teams – including the British and Irish Lions – have also fallen on deaf ears.

Is there another solution to this?

The most obvious would be that any game in a Red List country would be moved to an Orange List one, like what happened in last season’s Champions League, when national quarantine restrictions saw multiple encounters pass on neutral sites. But with the first World Cup qualifiers affected due to take place next week, sources involved in the crisis talks on the issue told the Sport Telegraph they fear that Fifa and the continental football confederations have left too late to take the same approach. With qualifiers slated for October and November that could also be affected, the postponement can also be a no-start.

Who will win this showdown?

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the clubs don’t win. They are ultimately the employers of the players and any independent arbitrator would likely find it unreasonable for them to be deprived of some of their biggest stars for what could be a month in total out of three international windows, especially since they had previously been allowed to decline. calls if it meant going to quarantine. Punishing clubs for doing so would also risk calling into question Fifa’s very authority as the global gaming governing body amid ongoing questions as to whether it can be both an impartial regulator and an organizer. competition. In the advice provided to its member clubs, the ECA wrote: “The firm belief of the ECA is that, even if Fifa decided not to extend the temporary exceptions of Covid, it would be unreasonable for clubs to be forced to release players in circumstances where there is a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days.


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