Football: imbroglio around the release of internationals in times of Covid and compulsory isolation

Idrissa Gana Gueye
On Wednesday February 17, the French professional clubs decided to retain their internationals, outside the France A team, likely to participate in a match outside the EU / EEA zone, and who should undergo a quarantine on their return to France. This refusal by clubs to make their players available is made possible by a FIFA circular.

It is a circular which makes a lot of talk and which could be at the origin of disputes between clubs and national selections. Last August, due to the pandemic, FIFA relaxed its regulations to allow clubs not to make their players available for selection if “a quarantine or self-isolation period of at least five days is mandatory ” on their return to the club.

This circular, renewed on February 5, modifies FIFA’s regulations, which usually provide that a club “having registered a player must make this player available to the association of the country for which the player is qualified, on the basis of his nationality, if he is summoned by the association in question. Any contrary agreement between a player and a club is prohibited “.

This provision is “compulsory for all international match periods appearing in the international match calendar “.

Taking advantage of this relaxation, French professional clubs have decided to retain their non-European players, or who were to play matches in countries outside the European Union. “We can understand the interests of each: the clubs certainly want to protect the health of their players and rely on their entire workforce for the championship, but the selections want to have their best players for qualifying for major competitions “, explains Maître Antoine Semeria, lawyer specializing in sports law.

The clubs seize the breach left to them by the regulations and rush into it to retain their players. We are perhaps witnessing the beginnings of litigation “, he adds.

Senegal is one of those selections that feel aggrieved. Twelve players playing in France, including Parisians Idrissa Gana Gueye and Abdou Diallo, should have joined the Lions of Teranga. In a letter to the French Football Federation, the Senegalese Federation complained about the failure to meet the deadline for responding to summons from players – calling it “discriminatory” – and asks that their internationals be able to participate in the next CAN playoff matches against Congo on March 26 in Brazzaville and Eswatini on March 30 in Thiès.

She says she sent the summons to the players concerned on March 5, but did not receive the answers until March 17, with the press release from the Professional Football League indicating that the clubs had agreed not to release their players. However, according to FIFA regulations, clubs have six days to respond to a player’s summons. “We are here in the presence of a legal imbroglio, which could pose a problem. FIFA will have to settle this dispute“, says Master Semeria.

In the other European leagues, Germany has granted a waiver to its Premier League players, allowing Joachim Löw to select Timo Werner, Ilkay Gündogan and Kai Havertz. On the other hand, Bayern Munich do not intend to release Robert Lewandowski, nor David Alaba for the matches of Poland in England and Austria in Scotland at the end of March, due to the quarantine requirement on return.

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