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Clubs won’t release players to red-list countries

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Fans queue to show their Covid-19 negative test result status, as they arrive to watch the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City on August 15. AFP

Clubs won’t release players to red-list countries

The Premier League on Tuesday announced its clubs will not release players for international matches played in red-list countries next month.

Amid frustration that players who travelled to red-list countries would have to follow UK coronavirus quarantine regulations ruling them out of several of their club’s matches, the league has revealed a blanket ban for the September fixtures.

The Egyptian Football Association had said on Monday Liverpool would not release Mohamed Salah for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Angola and Gabon due to the quarantine rules.

It was also reported that Liverpool would refuse to release Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Alisson Becker for Brazil’s three upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Both Egypt and Brazil are on the UK Government’s red list, with “mandatory isolation for 10 days” for travellers returning from those countries.

With tension mounting over the club versus country issue, the Premier League took matters into their own hands.

Like the Liverpool trio, Manchester City stars Ederson and Gabriel Jesus will now not be allowed to play for Brazil.

Leeds’ Raphinha, Fred of Manchester United, Everton striker Richarlison and Chelsea’s Thiago Silva were also among the Brazil players affected.

Argentina is on the red-list so Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, as well as Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia, will be unable to travel.

“Premier League clubs have today reluctantly but unanimously decided not to release players for international matches played in red-list countries next month,” the Premier League said in a statement on their website.

“The clubs’ decision, which is strongly supported by the Premier League, will apply to nearly 60 players from 19 Premier League clubs who are due to travel to 26 red-list countries in the September international window.

“This follows FIFA’s current position not to extend its temporary release exception for players required to quarantine on their return from international duty.”

Extensive discussions’

The row could rumble on however, with Paraguay’s football federation vowing to take their case to FIFA if Newcastle refuse to release key forward Miguel Almiron.

“We have already contacted the English federation by writing to request the release of Almiron. If we are not successful we will go straight to FIFA’s Player Status Committee, activating the mechanisms provided in the regulations,” Luis Kannonikof, the Paraguayan federation’s general secretary, said.

Paraguay are due to face Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela between September 2 and September 9.

“The exception that allows clubs to refuse to release players is no longer in effect, therefore the release is mandatory for all clubs. It must be respected,” added Kannonikof.

The problem was exacerbated by the recent decision of world governing body FIFA to extend the September and October international windows in South America by two days to catch up on postponed fixtures.

A potential solution would have been for the British Government to grant quarantine exemptions for players.

Discussions were held between football authorities and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport but a relaxation of rules was not considered.

The Government did not feel it could make allowances for footballers as it seeks to protect public health.

Last season, FIFA granted clubs dispensation not to release players where quarantine was an issue.

“Extensive discussions have taken place with both The FA and the Government to find a solution, but due to ongoing public health concerns relating to incoming travellers from red-list countries, no exemption has been granted,” the Premier League statement said.

“If required to quarantine on return from red-list countries, not only would players’ welfare and fitness be significantly impacted, but they would also be unavailable to prepare for and play in two Premier League match rounds, a UEFA club competition matchday and the third round of the EFL Cup.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters added: “Premier League clubs have always supported their players’ desires to represent their countries - this is a matter of pride for all concerned.

“However, clubs have reluctantly but rightly come to the conclusion that it would be entirely unreasonable to release players under these new circumstances.”

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