25 August 2021

Gianni Infantino seeks Boris Johnson backing for international break exemptions

25 August 2021

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has written to Boris Johnson requesting exemptions for players due to play in red list countries during the upcoming international break.

The Premier League announced on Tuesday that clubs had “reluctantly but unanimously” decided not to release anyone due to play in nations recognised by the UK Government as being at the highest level of coronavirus risk.

The decision applies to nearly 60 players from 19 top-flight clubs who are due to travel to 26 red-list countries, with even more players impacted after the English Football League announced they were following suit ahead of the September internationals.

The announcement that the Championship, League One and League Two would follow the Premier League’s stance came minutes before FIFA president Infantino pleaded for the relaxation of rules for players.

“We have faced global problems together in the past and must continue to do so in the future,” he said in a statement released on Wednesday.

“The release of players in the upcoming international windows is a matter of great urgency and importance.

“I am grateful for the support and cooperation from many stakeholders in the game during this challenging period.

“I am calling on a show of solidarity from every member association, every league, and every club, to do what is both right and fair for the global game.

“Many of the best players in the world compete in leagues in England and Spain, and we believe these countries also share the responsibility to preserve and protect the sporting integrity of competitions around the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and FIFA President Gianni Infantino at opposite ends of the Wembley box at the Euro 2020 final (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

“On the issue of quarantine restrictions in England, for players returning from red-list countries, I have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and appealed for the necessary support, in particular, so players are not deprived of the opportunity of representing their countries in qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup, which is one of the ultimate honours for a professional footballer.

“I have suggested that an approach similar to that adopted by the UK government for the final stages of the Euro 2020 be implemented for the upcoming international matches.

“Together we have shown solidarity and unity in the fight against COVID-19. Now, I am urging everyone to ensure the release of international players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”

The Premier League said their clubs’ decision “follows FIFA’s current position not to extend its temporary release exception for players required to quarantine on their return from international duty”.

The issue of players travelling to red-list countries needing to quarantine for 10 days in a managed hotel after flying back to Britain is exacerbated by FIFA’s recent decision to extend the September and October international windows in South America by two days to catch up on postponed fixtures.

The Premier League’s statement said clubs had also “discussed their dissatisfaction” with that decision by the world governing body, adding: “This places additional international obligations on players from that region, to the detriment of their availability to represent their clubs.

“FIFA was urged to work with all stakeholders to ensure an agreeable conclusion can be reached on the issue.”

The Premier League’s statement comes with the Egyptian Football Association having already confirmed that Liverpool would not be allowing Mohamed Salah to join up with his country’s squad because of red-list restrictions.

The Reds also have a trio who play for Brazil, another country on the red list, in Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino.

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