The World Leagues Forum (WLF) has written to global soccer governing body FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to say they will not release players for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) until Jan. 3.
FIFA regulations state clubs must release players for AFCON by Dec. 27, which is 13 days before the tournament starts. The WLF said that date was “unreasonable and disproportionate” for many clubs and players in action this month.
The WLF, which represents more than 40 professional leagues, said they had written twice to FIFA and CAF last month but did not receive an answer and any punishment for not releasing players would be “null and void”.
“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 in a letter sent on Thursday and seen 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.”
Reuters has contacted FIFA and CAF for comment.
While most European leagues wind down for a winter break, the English Premier League has scheduled three rounds of games between Boxing Day on Dec. 26 and the first week of January.
The Africa Cup of Nations runs from Jan. 9-Feb. 6. It was switched back to its traditional slot in January and February at Cameroon’s request to avoid the rainy season.
WLF stressed clubs were releasing players “for free while still paying their salaries” for a tournament being held in winter “against CAF’s initial commitment made in 2017 (to play the finals in June and July)”.
The 2019 tournament, won by Algeria, was held in the June-July period which is the close season for most leagues.
“Our clubs gladly commit to this solidarity scheme. But in consideration, we expect decisions not to be made in isolation by FIFA and CAF. We urge for more dialogue and cooperation in matters relating to the match calendar,” Perlemuter added.