Premier League & others could delay release of players for AFCON

Jamie Spencer
FIFA rules suggest players should be available for AFCON duty from 27 December
FIFA rules suggest players should be available for AFCON duty from 27 December / Visionhaus/GettyImages

The World Leagues Forum, which represents domestic league competitions around the world – including the Premier League – has written to FIFA and CAF threatening that players called up for the Africa Cup of Nations will not be released by their clubs until 2 January.

The tournament in Cameroon, which has already been a major cause for concern for clubs in the Premier League and others as a result of losing players at a key time and the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, is scheduled to begin on 9 January 2022.

FIFA rules regarding major international tournaments dictate that players must be available to report for duty with their national team up to two weeks before it begins. That would mean club sides having to release players as early as Monday 27 December.

For those domestic leagues without a winter break, it means potentially losing key players at a particularly busy time. Liverpool, as an example, could end up without Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane for six weeks in total should either Egypt, Senegal, or both, reach the final, instead of just four.

The Athletic writes that a letter from WLF general secretary Jerome Perlemuter argues that FIFA’s rules in this particular case are ‘unreasonable and disproportionate’. The letter also states that the WFL will consider any FIFA sanctions issued to clubs as a result of refusing to release players so early to be ‘abusive, null and void’.

How much influence the WLF will have in this matter is unclear as it is said that FIFA did not respond to two previous letters that were sent.

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