17 December 2023

FIFA criticised over player welfare following expanded Club World Cup plan

17 December 2023

FIFA’s determination to press on with plans for an expanded Club World Cup shows it only pretends to care about player welfare, Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango has said.

Football’s world governing body set out more detail about the 32-team, summer 2025 tournament following a meeting of its ruling Council in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on Sunday.

The competition will begin on June 15 and run to July 13, but its scheduling and size has caused serious concerns amongst unions and leagues.

Molango said: “The decision to push ahead with yet another expanded summer tournament – adding more and more games to a fixture list that is already at bursting point – just confirms that any expression of concern for player welfare is merely a pretence.

“Ultimately, players have become pawns in a battle for primacy between football’s governing bodies, with no one willing to take a step back or to work collaboratively to create a sustainable calendar.

“These decisions have consequences – not just for players who are being pushed until they break, but for the future quality of these tournaments, with players becoming injured or withdrawing from games as they make their own decisions about how to manage what have become ridiculous demands.”

World players’ union FIFPRO remains concerned that a dedicated player welfare task force – which FIFA announced in March would be established – has not met yet and not even been assembled.

The PA news agency understands World Leagues Forum – a league umbrella organisation chaired by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters – has also written to FIFA following the publication of the latest Club World Cup details.

In the letter, signed by Masters in his WLF capacity, the group is understood to have set out how it believes FIFA is refusing to consider the interests of domestic competitions and continues to overload the calendar. WLF also argues that despite FIFA’s primary role being to regulate the sport, it is instead prioritising and giving preference to the promotion of its own competitions over existing ones run by other national leagues and associations.

The overlapping concern for unions and leagues is the impact it will have on players being able to rest between seasons.

FIFPRO has told FIFA in its latest policy paper that players should have a mandatory minimum off-season break of 28 days, excluding a period of pre-season training before returning to match action.

With FIFA confirming the tournament is due to run until July 13, if the 2025-26 Premier League season started on August 9 it would mean an interval of only 27 days for any players involved in the final. A team reaching the final would need to play seven matches, with FIFA confirming the format would mirror that of the 32-team Qatar World Cup barring the absence of a third-place play-off.

FIFA argues that the Club World Cup is not an addition to the calendar, and that it merely replaces the Confederations Cup.

FIFA confirmed Europe’s eight places in the 2025 tournament – besides those reserved for the 2021 to 2024 Champions League winners – would go to the teams with the best UEFA coefficient ranking based on performance in the Champions League.

Only two teams will be permitted per country, unless that country has more than two Champions League winners. With Manchester City and Chelsea already qualified, the only way the Premier League could have a further representative would be if Arsenal won this season’s Champions League.

FIFA confirmed Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain, Inter Milan, Porto and Benfica had already secured places in the tournament via the coefficient pathway.

FIFA also confirmed a new Intercontinental Cup would start next year. The winners of the Champions League will play the continental champion team which emerges from the earlier rounds in the final at a neutral venue on December 18, 2024.

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