Clubs and player unions through their representative bodies – ECA and FIFPRO – have developed international guidelines on player health protection during the emergency calendar of football competitions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These principles have been developed in parallel and shared with the football stakeholders within the FIFA Calendar Working Group. The guidelines are part of the ongoing efforts by ECA and FIFPRO to work collectively with all stakeholders to help manage the impact of COVID-19 on the football industry and in particular on professional players, clubs, leagues and federations.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created exceptional health and economic challenges in professional football, which will impact our game for years to come. Part of this impact is an extremely condensed schedule of matches and competitions, a situation which will continue until the conclusion of the 2022/2023 season. It is likely that pressure on the calendar will further intensify during this pandemic, increasing injury and potential infection risks of players, especially those playing in international competitions.
For professional football, as for any industry and sector of our society, the impact of COVID-19 has reinforced the need for international cooperation, constructive dialogue and consensual solutions among stakeholders. This collaboration is needed to ensure the organisation and scheduling of football competitions.
The need to identify balanced solutions in the interest of the game must prioritize care for player health and performance. At the same time, clubs, who bear the risk of the significant investments made in their squads and infrastructure, must also be protected against the risk of being deprived of their players in their activities.
The guidelines propose an initial framework of protections to prevent the unnecessary risk of infections, restrict an increasing numbers of injuries and establish baselines for the future scheduling of matches. They have been developed in respect of the shared responsibilities as employers and employees in professional football. The guidelines sit alongside domestic and international return-to-play protocols and other agreements relating to the rest and recovery of players.
The guidelines by ECA and FIFPRO as representatives of employers and employees in professional football include:
- Protections against travel to and through regions with higher safety risks due to Covid-19
- Commitments to the holiday/off-season break entitlements for players
- Commitments to retraining periods before the start of competitions
- Continuous player load management
- Establishment of a joint and open work process to establish standards in various areas
These guidelines are meant to facilitate a coordinated approach between football stakeholders and assist all relevant parties to make informed decisions that enable the protection of the health, well-being and performance of players at a time of heightened risk. ECA and FIFPRO are in an open and continuous dialogue with leagues, confederations and FIFA on how to further strengthen these guidelines and apply them in the context of the various competitions and schedules in international football.
Commenting on the guidelines ECA’s CEO Charlie Marshall stated:
“Football stakeholders have a duty to ensure the highest protection to players and the public now more than ever, as we co-operate to manage the risks and complexities involved with bringing the game back to normality during this emergency period. ECA fully supports football’s ecology where national teams, domestic leagues and international club competitions combine to bring our game in all its forms to fans. These guidelines are offered to help all stakeholders engage in constructive partnership to deliver this ecology safely and effectively, including encouraging clubs’ role in releasing players in a responsible way for national team football.”
Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, FIFPRO General Secretary added:
“These guidelines are an important step to make player health and performance a central principle in the decision making across various international calendars. Competition organizers rightfully look into ways of keeping their tournaments and leagues running. However, we must do so with player health protection being the priority – whether that is due to infection and injury risk or to protect their mental wellbeing. Players want to be at their best when it matters most whether it is representing their club or country. These guidelines are meant to initiate the development of further regulatory safeguards with other football stakeholders but also help well informed individual decision making for players, clubs and federations.”
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