FIFA warned of legal action by Fifpro and WLA unless it backtracks on calendar

May 10 – Global players union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association (WLA) have warned FIFA of legal action if they FIFA doesn’t  “withdraw its decisions on the international calendar”.

In a letter sent to FIFA president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Mattias Grafstrom, the two bodies have commissioned external legal advice and will advise their member “both individually and collectively” on the options available to them.

Fifpro and the WLA are demanding that to stop any potential legal action FIFA must reschedule the 2025 Club World Cup, reopen discussion on the international player release windows for the 2024-30 period and review its decision on the ‘Intercontinental Cup’, the club competition FIFA wants to slot into the calendar between the four-year cycle of the expanded Club World Cup.

That would mean FIFA scrapping the Intercontinental Cup set for this December involving the same continental club champions that will play in the Club World Cup six months later in the US.

The letter, signed jointly by Fifpro general secretary Stephane Burchkalter and WLA general secretary Jerome Perlemuter, said: “FIFA’s recent strategic approach of developing its own competitions – such as the World Cup, the Club World Cup or the Intercontinental Cup – is adversely disrupting the football industry, jeopardizing national leagues and affecting the health and wellbeing of players. There is an urgent need for a structured process for handling calendar-related matters.”

Fifpro and the WLA in particular have long bemoaned FIFA’s lack of inclusivity of their stakeholders – the players and the leagues they play in – and demanded a seat at the planning table before decisions are taking, usually to the detriment of their members and too often in favour of FIFA’s own voracious financial appetite.

The letter argues that FIFA “is expected to develop inclusive governance arrangements. This must include clear, transparent and non-discriminatory processes which involve those directly affected and the establishment of objective criteria in its decision-making.

“However, FIFA has continually and consistently made unilateral decisions that benefit its own competitions and commercial interests, while negatively affecting national leagues and players. Over a significant period, FIFA has ignored repeated attempts by leagues and unions to engage on this issue.”

Because FIFA has for so long ignored the leagues and players, it is hard to see them changing track at the last minute before their Congress next Friday May 17 in Bangkok, Thailand.

That would then demand a response from the Fifpro/WLA corner. Insiders say that their letter is considerably more than a hollow threat, and with all the players FIFA needs to deliver their competitions at a respectable level and who earn their livelihoods in the competitions and leagues demanding a rethink, FIFA would be phenomenally arrogant to ignore their argument completely.

Fifpro and the WLA clearly see FIFA as a danger not to their own stakeholders’ interests but to the game in general.

“The calendar is now beyond saturation, to the point that national leagues are unable to properly organize their competitions, resulting in economic harm, whereas players are being pushed beyond their limits, with significant injury risks and impacts on their welfare and fundamental rights,” says the letter.

To squeeze in FIFA’s economic gain there inevitably has to be ‘economic harm’ somewhere else within the football infrastructure. That looks like being at the cost of leagues and clubs, and via the individuals, that make the whole opportunity of more money for FIFA possible.

Does this make FIFA a clear and present danger to the fabric of professional football, or some kind of Robinhood-like figure, robbing the rich to give to the poor?

There is a recent precedent where legal action has forced FIFA to radically change direction. FIFA’s new player agent rules were suspended after a well-funded and motivated group of agents began winning ruling that rendered them unenforceable in multiple jurisdictions around the world, but particularly in those that FIFA was trying to regulate.

That ruling might not have been in the best interests of the game, few people would argue that agents too often seem to earn obscene amounts of money from obscured deal making. But it showed that FIFA is not immune to international law.

With the Fifpro/WLA position looking firmly entrenched, FIFA is in danger of playing chicken with some of its biggest assets.

At what stage do we reach an ‘enough-is-enough’ moment, both financially and dictatorially. Seems that Fifpro/WLA are now there.

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