Paris (AFP) – Several top European leagues on Friday said they regretted FIFA’s decision to extend the window for scheduling September and October World Cup qualifiers in Latin America as incompatible.
“FIFA has decided to impose the worst possible option with practically no notice,” complained the World Association of Professional Football Leagues (WAPFL), which represents some 40 leagues around the world — including the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga.
The reshuffle comes with the pandemic having wreaked havoc with the calendar while the ongoing health crisis requires players to abide by strict medical restrictions including quarantine periods on their return.
Regional qualifiers due to take place initially in September 2020 were postponed and regional confederation CONMEBOL sought a replacement international window for next January to enable fixture completion by March.
But the Covid-19 fallout saw FIFA announce that postponed matchdays 5 and 6 would be rescheduled to September and October at CONMEBOL’s request.
September and October will now see triple-header international windows with matchday 5 played between matchdays 11–12 and 6 taking place between matchdays 9 and 10.
That has angered a slew of European clubs with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain fearing prolonged absences for stars — with Brazil’s Neymar and new signing Lionel Messi of Argentina right at the top of their list.
“These decisions of FIFA will negatively impact national professional leagues, clubs, players and fans,” WAPFL said in a statement.
“Leagues and their clubs must meet with onerous contractual requirements, also ensuring health and safety, and careful planning of fixtures. Permitting unilateral changes to an established international match calendar disrespects these arrangements.
“As a governing body, FIFA should be trying to find the best solution for the entire football community. Instead, FIFA has decided to impose the worst possible option with practically no notice,” the statement went on.
The association said leagues would “fully support clubs refusing to release their players and players refusing to go in case there is a quarantine with the country concerned and more generally if they do not want to miss national competitions”.
FIFA announced the schedule change on August 6, citing “exceptional” circumstances.