In solidarity with European clubs who would be badly impacted by the departures, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has requested the 24 countries playing in next month’s Africa Cup of Nations to modify the arrival dates of its Europe-based players.
Clubs must release their African players by December 27 to enable them prepare for Africa’s showpiece football championship, according to FIFA rules.
Following an arrangement struck by FIFA, CAF has advised African national teams to delay the entrance of their European players until January 3.
The concession is being made to European clubs, according to Africa’s regulatory body, as a result of the devastating effect of the Covid pandemic, which has destroyed plans of clubs across Europe.
The World Leagues Forum (WLF) threatened not to release their African talents early for the tournament in Cameroon, citing the suffering of European clubs as a reason.
The WLF threatened not to release players for the AFCON until January 3 because England is the only league in Europe that does not take a break for Christmas.
Despite the fact that the African football governing body’s law favors player release, the Cairo-based organization has opted to extend a goodwill gesture to European clubs.
“However, following extensive discussion between FIFA and CAF, CAF has decided to make a commitment of solidarity with respect to the release of players by their respective clubs under certain circumstances,” Mattias Grafstrom, the deputy general secretary of FIFA wrote in a letter to the WLF.
“Specifically, and bearing in mind that under the legal framework that governs release of players to their international teams the official enforceable release date for the competitions is 27 December 2021, CAF has decided that for those players who have official club matches between 27th December and 3rsd January, the participating member association in question are directed that these players may remain with their clubs to participate in these matches and be released after the last match during this period.
“It has been highlighted to FIFA that this decision is taken in the spirit of goodwill and solidarity with the affected clubs in recognition of the fact that they, like members of the football community, have been adversely affected by the onset of the COVID pandemic.
CAF stated that, as a result of its goodwill gestures, European clubs must promise to making similar gestures to African national teams in the future if the need arises.
“It is also assumed that in the spirit of mutual cooperation remain between and all relevant stakeholders in this regard, including related to the release of players and the provisions of sporting exemptions to travel and quarantine restrictions if required in the future,” the FIFA top official reminded the European clubs.
The World League Federation (WLF), which represents more than 40 professional leagues around the world, including Europe’s top five divisions, wrote to FIFA threatening not to release African players by the deadline.
They said that the deadline was “unreasonable and disproportionate”, and that when they contacted FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) twice last month, they received no response.
“As indicated in our unanswered letter of November 19, more than a month ago, we consider that the FIFA rule must be adapted,” WLF general secretary Jerome Perlemuter wrote, as reported by Reuters.
“As a consequence, in order to mitigate the impact of the decisions made on the AFCON, we consider that the release of players shall start on January 3 for those clubs and players having matches before then.
“We will also consider that any sanction imposed by FIFA will be deemed abusive, null and void.”
From January 9 to February 6, the AFCON will be held in Cameroon.
The mundial billed for June and July 2021, but owing to Cameroon’s request, it was rescheduled for January and February to prevent poor playing conditions during the country’s rainy season.