Premier League Will Not Release Players for World Cup Qualifiers

FIFA ignored those entreaties, though, and added two extra days for qualifying matches in September and October. The clubs, and their leagues, were furious, but they face sanctions if they refuse to release their players.

That appears to be a risk the Premier League teams are willing to take.

“Premier League clubs have always supported their players’ desires to represent their countries — this is a matter of pride for all concerned,” the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, said in a statement supporting the clubs’ decision. “However, clubs have reluctantly but rightly come to the conclusion that it would be entirely unreasonable to release players under these new circumstances.”

The Premier League’s objections are also financial, and competitive. FIFA’s ruling extending the international break will most likely leave clubs in Europe and elsewhere without hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of talent for key early-season games because the new dates — and player travel — would overlap with domestic schedules.

“As a governing body, FIFA should be trying to find the best solution for the entire football community,” the World Leagues Forum, an umbrella organization for about 40 top leagues, said in a statement protesting the decision to add days to the international break. “Instead, FIFA has decided to impose the worst possible option with practically no notice. This poses an obvious governance issue which will have to be addressed.”

FIFA has rejected the appeals of the clubs and the leagues to find a different solution, saying in a statement related directly to the release of South American players that its schedule allows for adequate rest.

“The addition of two days will ensure sufficient rest and preparation time between matches, reflecting the longer travel distances required both to and within South America, thus safeguarding player welfare by mitigating the negative consequences of this more intense schedule, while ensuring fair competition as well as a prompter return to their clubs of the players involved,” FIFA said.

FIFA made no immediate comment on the Premier League’s announcement that it would not release players.