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Premier League expected to join global player revolt over Fifa’s Club World Cup

Premier League expected to join global player revolt over Fifa's Club World Cup
Premier League expected to join global player revolt over Fifa's Club World Cup

Burnt-out players are ready to strike over the Club World Cup, unions warned as the Premier League joined threats of unprecedented legal action against Fifa.

The extra burden on an already packed European calendar could spark an exodus to Saudi Arabia or America, the Professional Footballers’ Association added. Maheta Molango, the PFA’s chief executive, said top players facing 80-plus games a season have told him: “We may as well strike.”

A boycott goes further than the position held by the Premier League, but its chief executive joined the summit of football figures warning the game was at “breaking point”. One major concern for the English top tier, Masters explained, is that players will be wiped out of the start of their domestic seasons after competing in the 32-team Club World Cup next summer.

“Something has to give,” said Richard Masters, speaking mainly in his additonal role as chair of the World Leagues Forum. Demanding more consultation for domestic competitions in global calendar decisions, he added: “We think enough is enough and it’s a shame we are here discussing these things,”. He said leagues were now “contemplating things that are genuinely last resort” in a “sad moment” for football.

The London event was hosted by global players’ union, Fifpro, which cited complaints from a host of elite players, including Kylian Mbappe, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. “If Fifa doesn’t listen to us, we will take things into our own hands,” said David Terrier, Europe president of Fifpro. “We won’t exclude any possibility whatsoever.”

Real Madrid and England midfielder Jude Bellingham was highlighted as a player at high risk. He has played over 18,000 minutes of football, compared to David Beckham (3,929) and Wayne Rooney (15,481) at the same age.

As part of a review led by Fifpro, 50 per cent of players surveyed said they had been forced to play while already carrying an injury, while 82 per cent of managers said they had fielded a player they knew required a rest. Terrier said there was “an emergency” around growing mental and physical fatigue of players.

“We are faced with one of the most urgent problems with our sport, which has risen through a failure of government,” he said. “It has given rise to dangerous mental and physical fatigue. The problem is the ones who listen and the ones who don’t. As a union it is the most important part of our work to listen to our members – to listen is to accept responsibility. Players do speak and communicate with us and it is absolutely clear, there is an emergency – we are in danger. Players have gone beyond the limit and the international timetable is full to the brim.”

The revamped 32-team Fifa tournament is set to feature holders Manchester City and Chelsea in the USA next summer. Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich and Bellingham’s Real Madrid are also set to play in the four-week format, which has a £600million-plus prize fund.

Premier League expected to join global player revolt over Fifa's Club World Cup
Jude Bellingham has played a lot of minutes since his breakthrough in - Getty Images/Chris Brunskill

Speaking in a panel discussion, Masters said: “The problem is real. We’re stating to see the impact of decisions made by regional and international bodies. The calendar is getting less harmonious with every decision that is being made.”

Sitting alongside him, LaLiga chief Javier Tebas demanded immediate legal action. “We have sent letters and Fifa have ignored us,” he claimed. “If we don’t take action the industry is in danger…We are destroying football. Now we need to resort to legal action. We can’t wait a day longer.”

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said at the organisation’s Congress in Bangkok earlier this month: “FIFA is organising around one per cent of the games of the top clubs in the world, 98-99 per cent of the matches are organised by the different leagues, associations, confederations.”

In his warning that he has spoken to players willing to strike, Molango said “we need to discover the value of scarcity”, adding that players in Europe may start to look for an easier life in the Middle East or America, where there are fewer games. Players earn huge amounts in Europe but have told Molango: “We don’t even have time to spend the money”. “Some of them said I am not having it so we may as well strike,” he added.

Last month, World Leagues Association (WLA) and FifPro wrote a joint letter to Gianni Infantino demanding the “rescheduling” of the new competition.

Fifa wrote back rejecting “any suggestion” it had failed to consult properly over the likes of the new Club World Cup.

Responding to the allegations against Fifa detailed on Thursday, Infantino said in a statement sent to Telegraph Sport: “Fifa is organising around one per cent of the games of the top clubs in the world - 98 to 99 per cent of the matches are organised by the different leagues, associations, confederations.

“Fifa is financing football all over the world. The revenues that we generate are not just going to a few clubs in one country, the revenues that we generate are going to 211 countries all over the world. There is no other organisation that does that. Our mission is to organise events and competitions, and to develop football around the world because 70 per cent of the member associations of Fifa would have no football without the resources coming directly from Fifa.”

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