FIFA and ECA reach compromise on early player release dates for Women’s World Cup

May 18 – The world governing body FIFA and the European Club Association (ECA) have revised the rules regarding player release dates for the upcoming Women’s World Cup, allowing for more flexibility. 

Initially, the mandatory release date was July 10, just ten days before the tournament kicks offs. However, this decision faced criticism due to concerns about potential injuries resulting from the short break. Club versus country tensions threatened to derail national teams’ preparations for the World Cup, but, in response, FIFA and the ECA have made adjustments.

While the mandatory release date of July 10 still applies to players whose clubs have matches scheduled until that date, players whose domestic seasons have concluded can now be released earlier, specifically from June 23-29. This change allows for a four-week preparation period before the tournament commences.

“The consensus framework takes into consideration the existence of different playing seasons for leagues around the world,” FIFA and the ECA said in a joint statement Wednesday. “This new framework strikes the all-important balance between players having sufficient rest while allowing adequate time to prepare for the World Cup.”

The new agreement follows a call from European clubs for countries to stick to the rules around the release of players for this summer’s World Cup.

The build-up to the tournament was jolted by the European Club Association (ECA) firmly reminding national associations that players will not be available until 10 days beforehand.

The women’s game has been rocked by several high-profile injuries in the past year, including ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments suffered by players such as Vivianne Miedema, Alexia Putellas, Beth Mead and, last week, the England captain Leah Williamson.

In a statement issued at the end of May the European Clubs Association said it had received a “volume of alerts” from clubs about the issue and warned that the health and well-being of players could be put at risk.

“This is not a matter of financial compensation or the absence of adequate protection and insurance, but a serious concern for player welfare,” ECA Head of Women’s Football Claire Bloomfield said.

“The issue of early call-ups is a hangover from the game in its amateur form and is detrimental to the future success and growth of women’s football.”

Several countries have preparation camps planned and these would have been seriously jeopardised if the new compromise had not been found.

New Zealand kicks off the tournament on July 20 in Auckland before co-hosts Australia take on Ireland that same day. The final is slated for August 20 in Sydney. It’s the first time that the tournament will feature 32 teams.

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