Players union warns FIFA not overlook health implications of new tournaments

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The well-being and health of footballers must be a priority for global soccer body FIFA as it makes plans for two major new international soccer tournaments, the world players’ union said on Thursday.

FIFPro said in a statement that it would be neglecting its duty if it did not look at the impact on players’ health of FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s ambitious plans for a global Nations League and a revamped 24-team Club World Cup.

Infantino’s proposed Club World Cup would involve expanding it to 24 teams - including 12 from Europe - and staging it every four years, starting from 2021, instead of annually as happens at present.

The Nations League would be a global version of the new competitions which are being introduced by UEFA in Europe and by CONCACAF in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

It would culminate in an eight-team knockout tournament -- effectively a mini-World Cup -- held every two years, also starting from 2021.

These new tournaments would be on top of existing competitions such as the World Cup and its qualifying competition, the European championship, Copa America and African Nations Cup.

“In the light of the current discussions, it would be remiss if FIFPro did not explore the impact of these proposals on players,” FIFPro’s European president Bobby Barnes told a meeting in Serbia.

“While other stakeholders might have other priorities, the health and wellbeing of the players has to be our first priority,” he said, according to a FIFPro statement.

FIFPro said it recently surveyed more than 600 footballers for their views on the current match calendar, and is studying scientific evidence about the amount of recovery time players need between matches.

Last week, European Leagues, an umbrella group representing Europe’s top football leagues, said they were in “firm opposition” to the plans of FIFA president Infantino.

A statement urged European soccer’s governing body UEFA to ally with the World League Forum, the European Clubs Association and FIFPro to “firmly oppose and together stop this unilateral initiative from FIFA and the process which lacks of transparency and a proper consultation with the stakeholders.”

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