Updated: August 25, 2021 10:29:13 pm
The English Premier League and Spanish La Liga should release players for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers next month to “preserve and protect sporting integrity”, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said.
The top-flight leagues in England and Spain said on Tuesday they backed clubs refusing to make players available for qualifiers in countries where the players would have to quarantine on their return, particularly South America.
The decision applies to nearly 60 Premier League players from 19 clubs who are due to travel to 26 red-list countries, leading Infantino to plead for the relaxation of rules for players.
“We have faced global problems together in the past and must continue to do so in the future,” Infantino said.
“The release of players in the upcoming international windows is a matter of great urgency and importance.”
Infantino called “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”.
He added: “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.
“On the issue of quarantine restrictions in England, for players returning from red-list countries, I have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and appealed for the necessary support, in particular, so players are not deprived of the opportunity of representing their countries in qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup, which is one of the ultimate honours for a professional footballer.
“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.
“Together we have shown solidarity and unity in the fight against Covid-19. Now, I am urging everyone to ensure the release of international players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”
FIFA’s statement came minutes after the English Football League announced it was following the Premier League’s stance on players heading to red-list countries.
A statement read: “EFL clubs have today taken the collective decision not to release players for international matches that are to be played in countries on the UK Government’s ‘red list’ next month.
“The EFL supports the decision of its clubs and is aligned with the position taken by our Premier League colleagues, who are also significantly impacted by this situation.
“The approach has been necessary as a result of FIFA’s policy change whereby clubs are now required to release players to countries that are on a Governmental red list, where previously there was an exemption.”