ZURICH: FIFA will not consider rescheduling their new 32-team Club World Cup, world football’s governing body said on Friday after global players’ union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association (WLA) threatened legal action if they did not review their plans.

FIFPRO and WLA expressed their concern over the expanded competition last week in a letter addressed to FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Secretary General Mattias Grafstrom.

Their letter said the global football calendar is “beyond saturation” and that national leagues are unable to properly organise their competitions, while players are being pushed beyond their limits, with significant injury risks.

In response, FIFA rejected their claims that the football body made unilateral decisions to benefit its competitions in the international calendar.

In the letter, Grafstrom stated that they have regularly engaged with relevant stakeholders on the subject of the International Match Calendar (IMC).

Grafstrom said both FIFPRO and WLA were involved in discussions on the future of the calendar in 2021 and 2022.

“From the outset we reject any suggestion or inference that FIFA somehow “imposes” the International Match Calendar (IMC) on the football community without adequate consultation or to suit its own “business strategy”,” Grafstrom wrote.

“It should be noted that the views expressed by FIFPRO and the WLA during the consultation process influenced the IMC to such an extent that it was closer — and in many ways substantially identical — to the version which was already in place previously, as opposed to the version proposed at the start of the consultation.

“Consequently, there could hardly be a clearer demonstration not only that a genuine consultation took place but also that your views were very much taken into account during the course of that consultation.”

The principles for the IMC period 2025-2030 were approved by the FIFA Council in December 2022 while the calendar itself was approved by the Council three months later.

The Swedish official added that while he disagreed with the “tenor and content” of the league and union letter, FIFA was keen to organise a meeting with them over the summer to discuss the issue further during the close season.

In addition to the 32-team FIFA Club World Cup that is set to be hosted in the United States next year from June 15 to July 13, all three European club competitions will be expanded to 36 teams from next season.

On Thursday, the leagues and unions had called on FIFA to reschedule the Club World Cup, due to be staged between June 13 and July 15 next year, or face legal action.

Grafstrom said FIFA is “like any other competition organiser” and “fully within our rights to set the parameters of our competitions whilst respecting the regulatory framework in place”.

He also took aim at domestic leagues, such as the Premier League, organising summer competitions.

“We are also well aware that there are other competition organisers, including those represented by the WLA, who are similarly entitled to exercise their rights in the same manner, including the ability to introduce, abolish or replace competitions, and to review their formats in a reasonable way,” he said.

“This ability has been demonstrated by the introduction of international tours by members of the WLA in recent years, by way of example. It would be useful for us to understand if the motivations expressed in your letter have resulted in similar written representations and references to legal action to your members or other competition organisers.”

FIFPRO and WLA are aiming to discuss their issues before the FIFA Congress at the meeting between the 211 member associations on May 17 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2024

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