ECA slams FIFA’s biennial plan and calls for urgent talks on AFCON player safety

December 3 – As well as re-iterating their opposition to a biennial World Cup, Europe’s top clubs are seeking urgent talks with FIFA over the safety of players at next month’s Africa Cup of Nations.

The European Club Association, representing over 240 clubs, is the latest body to express concern over the January-February tournament in Cameroon especially given travel bans and restrictions since the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in southern Africa.

After its latest meeting in Paris, the ECA board expressed its “deep concerns” around player safety and welfare around the international matches early next year, “particularly in light of the worsening public health situation and the severe challenges faced during recent international windows”.

“The board agreed to engage urgently with FIFA to ensure all necessary precautions are in place to protect players … as the health situation continues to deteriorate in an alarming manner,” the ECA said.

The 24-team Africa Cup of Nations is scheduled to be held in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6 and there are concerns come clubs may refuse to release players if their safety cannot be guaranteed beforehand.

That’s what happened during last September’s international window when some Premier League clubs refused to release players to countries on the UK’s red list due to quarantine requirements.

An agreement was reached the following month to let fully vaccinated players travel to red list countries for internationals on condition they quarantine for 10 days after returning to their own countries.

Not the first time, the ECA board also said it was unanimously opposed to FIFA’s biennial World Cup proposal, re-iterating that its members provided almost 90% of players who featured in the 2018 tournament.

“Today, the ECA Executive Board made clear our insistence that the voice of European clubs is properly respected in all decisions related to the International Match Calendar, and that consultations are comprehensive and genuine,” said ECA Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

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