Late on Friday night, the international FAs of Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Paraguay humiliatingly climbed down after lobbying FIFA into prohibiting a number of Premier League players playing for their clubs.
The football associations, in a seemingly vindictive manner, wished to prevent their own players from being able to play for their club sides, who pay the majority of their wages, and for whom they ply the overwhelming amount of their trade as footballers.
The whole situation itself was patently absurd, with coronavirus laws in the UK and Brazil in particular being the focus, as health officials interrupted and suspended a match between Argentina and Brazil in dramatic style, and the Premier League and its clubs agreed to not send their players to the red-list countries.
With FIFA’s initial ruling that clubs would be unable to field the ‘ineligible’ players, the governing body faced the prospect of being defied by both the clubs and the Premier League, in what would have been an embarrassing debacle showing the limits of the power and respect FIFA has. It would have been a stark demonstration that the powers that be are still — despite changing trends in recent years — contingent on the consent of football clubs and fans.
But this experience is something that is far too common in football, where clubs and players are being overlooked in favour of more powerful or financially-endowed interests.
It is not just FIFA that are guilty of this. UEFA, the FA and the Premier League could face similar accusations.
For example, when Liverpool progressed to the Club World Cup after winning the Champions League in 2019, the Reds were faced with the ridiculous prospect of fielding two teams in 24 hours in two different continents.
Last season, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp found both his and the Players’ Football Association’s (PFA) calls for greater protections for player welfare and physical safety marginalised and shut down for the sake of broadcasting commitments.
Klopp also found support from other managers regarding the lack of rest and preparation time between a Wednesday night European game and a 12:30 kick-off on the following Saturday — only this season did the Premier League and broadcasters come together to avoid this unnecessary and unfair constraint on clubs.
These are all extraordinary and completely avoidable issues that could easily have been solved through considerate and sensible discussions. But the governing bodies and regulators have consistently demonstrated their aversion to compromising.
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