FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday that the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga should release players for World Cup qualifiers next month to “preserve and protect sporting integrity”.
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, the La Liga supported its clubs in refusing to release players for qualifiers in South America.
“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,” he added.
The Premier League said nearly 60 players were set to travel to 26 countries on Britain’s “red list” while La Liga 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 footballers.
The international break in September begins after this weekend’s matches and runs for two weeks, with the Premier League resuming on September 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 September 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 said.
London’s Wembley Stadium hosted the semifinals 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.