FIFA fury as it refuses to back down on calendar in face of FIFPRO and WLA’s legal threat

May 13 – FIFA have responded furiously to threats by world players union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association (WLA) that they and their members will take legal action over the ‘imposition’ of the international match calendar, and in particular the staging of 2025 Club World Cup.

FIFA’s lack of consultation over key issues that materially affect the members of both organisations has long been a complaint of both stakeholders.

FIFPRO and the WLA want the Club World Cup withdrawn from the international match calendar with immediate effect, or they will take legal action.

What makes their current threat most worrying for FIFA is that there is a steel resolve in both FIFPRO and the WLA to take FIFA to court. Unlike its other stakeholder groups, FIFA is in what is for them the unusual and uncomfortable position of having no significant leverage to bring to bear over FIFPRO or the WLA to prevent this happening.

What is more, any legal action would likely widen the divide between FIFA and the two stakeholder bodies to the detriment of FIFA’s competitions.

FIFPRO control the players who FIFA needs to make their competitions – an in particular the World Cup money spinner – meaningful, while the leagues generate the revenues that feed the professional game and players worldwide. FIFA provides no meaningful funding for the professional game directly, indeed as a unified body the leagues massively outweigh FIFA’s revenue, match organisation and local impact on the game.

Coming just five days before the FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, the dispute casts a huge shadow over the world governing body and its abilities to deliver a calendar. As well as a deeper question over its ability to effectively govern the world’s biggest sport.

In a letter to the World Leagues Association (WLA) and FIFPRO, Mattias Grafstrom, general secretary of world football’s governing body said that FIFA “reject any suggestion or inference that FIFA somehow “imposes” the InternationalMatch Calendar (IMC) on the football community”.

Grafstrom said that “the subject of the calendar was discussed with both FIFPRO and WLF, among others, on severaloccasions as a fundamental part of the wider topic of the “Future of Football” during 2021 and into 2022.”

However, those discussions related principally to FIFA’s desire to play its World Cup every two year – a plan that was rejected across the board. The two complainants say that multiple requests for discussion and information on plans the Club World Cup went unanswered.

Grafstrom says in his letter that FIFA “as part of the consultation process, evaluated the views and positions expressedby all relevant parties and then attempted to balance these views and positions in a responsible and impartial manner.”

FIFPRO and the WLA say they weren’t consulted, which in FIFA’s world makes them an irrelevant party by their own definition. It is a frustration keenly felt by both organisations.

FIFA went further in their dismissal of the FIFAPRO and the WLA’s contention by opening a somewhat petulant and certainly obfuscating line of argument asking: “Continuing on the position you have outlined regarding competitions, and in particular club competitions, it would be useful for us to understand if the motivations expressed in your letter have resulted in similarwritten representations and references to legal action to your members or other competition organisers. This is particularlygiven the fact that FIFA – both under the new and old calendar and FIFA competition structure – are responsible for afractional amount of the total elite club games around the world as well as a fractional amount of the players involved both on a yearly and on a cyclical basis.”

FIFA and Grafstrom adopted a condescending tone in their letter saying that while they “disagree with the tenor and content of your letter, we have nonetheless taken note of your concerns and are more than happy to continue our on-going dialogue on this important topic. In this context, we would be pleased to invite you to discuss the matter further at a time convenient for you.”

The point is that for FIFPRO and the WLA the situation is well beyond the discussion phase as FIFA has approved the calendar – hence their letter demanding the CWC is cancelled in 2025 or they will take legal action.

The suggestion made by FIFA that they “would be pleased to invite” FIFPRO and the WLA for some kind of ‘big brotherly’ chat about the issue, would take the discussion away from being an embarrassing issue at this week’s FIFA Congress, and even further away from FIFA’s membership – not that they have much of a meaningful decision-making role in FIFA’s leadership.

FIFPRO and the WLA have nothing to lose. FIFA potentially have everything to lose, and a lot more than just an edition of the Club World Cup.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1716004783labto1716004783ofdlr1716004783owedi1716004783sni@n1716004783osloh1716004783cin.l1716004783uap1716004783