FIFA urges Premier League and LaLiga to release players for World Cup qualifiers

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Berlin, GERMANY: A picture taken 12 May 2006 shows the FIFA World Cup trophy presented to the public in Berlin, as it toured Germany. The trophy, which FIFA commissionned for the 10th World Cup in 1974, is made of solid gold and malachite and was designed by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga. It is 36cm high, made of solid 18-carat gold and weighs 4,970 grams. The base contains two layers of semi-precious malachite and has room for 17 small plaques bearing the name of the winners. The winners of the Football World Cup 2006 final match played 09 July in Berlin will retain it until the next tournament, in South Africa, and they will be awarded a gold-plated replica. AFP PHOTO / BARBARA SAX (Photo credit should read BARBARA SAX/AFP/Getty Images)

The English Premier League and Spain’s LaLiga should release players for World Cup qualifiers next month to “preserve and protect sporting integrity”, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday.

While the Premier League has refused to release players headed to countries on the United Kingdom’s ‘red list’ due to strict quarantine rules on their return, LaLiga supported its clubs in refusing to release players for qualifiers in South America.

Soccer Football – World Health Organization & FIFA Press Conference – WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland – October 4, 2019. FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the press conference. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

“I am calling on a show of solidarity from every member association, every league, and every club, to do what is both right and fair for the global game,” Infantino said in a statement.

“Many of the best players in the world compete in leagues in England and Spain, and we believe these countries also share the responsibility to preserve and protect the sporting integrity of competitions around the world.”

The Premier League said nearly 60 players were set to travel to 26 countries on Britain’s “red list” while LaLiga said 25 players from 13 different clubs were affected, with more likely to follow when Ecuador and Venezuela announce their squads.

England’s strict rules would require players to quarantine for 10 days upon their return to the country, with the Premier League saying no exemption had been granted by the government for soccer players.

The international break in September begins after this weekend’s matches and runs for two weeks, with the Premier League resuming on Sept. 11.

Premier League players would potentially miss two league matches if they quarantined on their return. The period would cover three games if the club was involved in the group stages of European club competitions which begin on Sept. 14.

Infantino said he had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for support.

“I have suggested that an approach similar to that adopted by the UK government for the final stages of the Euro 2020 be implemented for the upcoming international matches,” Infantino added.

London’s Wembley Stadium hosted the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 last month. Official data published last week said the final was a “superspreader” event due to the level of COVID-19 infection found in or around the stadium on the day.

Johnson has backed plans for a bid by the United Kingdom and Ireland to host the 2030 World Cup finals.

The English Football League (EFL), which governs England’s lower divisions, also said in a statement on Wednesday that their clubs had taken a “collective decision not to release players for international matches” in red-list countries.

The matter first came to light on Monday when the Egyptian Football Association said Liverpool had refused to allow Mohamed Salah to travel to Africa for World Cup qualifiers.

REUTERS