FIFA keeps window open for overseas players to suspend Russian and Ukrainian contracts

June 22 – FIFA has moved to help protect foreign players and coaches affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine by allowing them to suspend existing contracts until June 2023.

Overseas players contracted to Ukrainian clubs have mostly fled since the war began in February, with it remaining uncertain as to when or whether they will return.

Earlier this month, Andriy Pavelko, president of Ukraine’s football federation, revealed details of discussions with the heads of FIFA and UEFA about resuming men’s and women’s matches in the country in a safe manner in August.

“Should clubs affiliated to the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) or the Football Union of Russia (FUR) not reach a mutual agreement with their respective foreign players and coaches before or on 30 June 2022, and unless otherwise agreed in writing, these players and coaches will have the right to suspend their employment contracts with their clubs until 30 June 2023,” a FIFA statement read.

“These provisions give players and coaches the opportunity to train, play and receive a salary, while protecting Ukrainian clubs and facilitating the departure of foreign players and coaches from Russia.

“FIFA will continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine closely to ensure that the regulatory framework is adapted according to any new developments. FIFA also continues to condemn the ongoing use of force by Russia in Ukraine and calls for a rapid cessation of the war and a return to peace.”

With the summer transfer window now under way, Ukraine’s top club Shakhtar Donetsk warned this month that some agents were trying “to take our players for free” and exploit the uncertainty.

In Russia, the chief executive of domestic champions Zenit St. Petersburg reacted furiously to the upgraded rule, saying it amounted to “robbery” and was “categorically the wrong decision.”

“Clubs have paid out serious amounts for transfers,” Zenit’s Alexander Medvedev said in comments reported by state news agency RIA Novosti. “I haven’t heard about any compensation for expenses from FIFA, UEFA or these players’ new clubs.”

Fifpro, the global players’ union, said it had been pushing for the right to terminate contracts altogether in Ukraine and Russia.

“Today’s decision will suit some players but will result in more uncertainty and lost earnings for others; it therefore leaves open issues that still need to be addressed,” Fifpro said in a statement to The Associated Press.

FIFA also has amended its rules protecting young players from international trafficking, and will allow “minors fleeing Ukraine to other countries with their parents” to sign with a club in a different country before their 18th birthday.

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