Premier League clubs will not release players called up for international duty if they are playing matches in a country on the UK’s coronavirus “red list” to prevent them from having to quarantine on their return to England, the league said on Tuesday after a unanimous vote by member clubs.
“Extensive discussions have taken place with both the FA and the government to find a solution, but due to ongoing public health concerns relating to incoming travellers from red-list countries, no exemption has been granted,” the league said in a statement.
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Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Peru are all on the British government’s “red list” of countries that trigger a 10-day hotel quarantine on return.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Premier League clubs have always supported their players’ desires to represent their countries — this is a matter of pride for all concerned. However, clubs have reluctantly but rightly come to the conclusion that it would be entirely unreasonable to release players under these new circumstances.
“Quarantine requirements mean that players’ welfare and fitness will be significantly impacted. We understand the challenges that exist in the international match calendar and remain open to workable solutions.”
Earlier on Tuesday, European clubs accused world body FIFA of abusing its regulatory function in this row over the extended release of players for the September and October qualifiers.
Premier League sides would be particularly hard hit by FIFA’s decision to extend a mandatory release period from nine to 11 days to enable tripleheaders in South America and also by strict England’s quarantine rules.
Liverpool have already refused to allow Mohamed Salah to travel to Africa for World Cup qualifiers with Egypt next month because he would be forced to quarantine on his return to England.
With World Cup qualifiers in Africa, Asia, the CONCACAF region, Europe and South America, the clubs are on a potential collision course with FIFA.
The European Club Association (ECA) wrote to members, in a Q&A document reported by The Times newspaper and also seen by Reuters, saying FIFA had taken decisions unilaterally and “against the explicit objection of ECA and the rest of the stakeholders.
“ECA has firmly expressed its objection to FIFA’s decision and has urged FIFA to review its position,” it said.
“ECA will not accept that a governing body like FIFA abuses its regulatory function in order to place its commercial interests and those of its member associations above the physical wellbeing of players and legitimate sporting interests of clubs.”
England’s quarantine requirements could affect Liverpool’s Brazilian trio of Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker and Fabinho, who have been called up for next month’s qualifiers against Chile, Argentina and Peru.
The ECA said FIFA had decided this month, at the request of South American confederation CONMEBOL, to extend the mandatory release period “in complete disregard to the clubs’ interests.”
It said FIFA was unlikely to change its decision and the ECA would have to consider what action to take.
There was no immediate comment from FIFA.
The BBC reported that the Football Association and Premier League were in discussion with the government over a relaxation of Britain’s quarantine rules.
Information from Reuters was used in this story.
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