Soccer players take legal action against FIFA over workload and Club World Cup

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Soccer players have taken legal action against FIFA over the expansion of the world governing body in the club game and the workload brought by the extra matches, which is widening the divide between the sport’s stars and organizers.

FIFA, the global players’ union, said on Thursday it had submitted a legal claim to the Brussels commercial court, accusing FIFA of „unilaterally” setting the international competition calendar and challenging its plans for a renewed club competition.

Backed by the English and French players’ associations, Fifpro Europe wants to take the case to the European Court of Justice as the fight over an „overburdened and unworkable” football calendar escalates.

At the heart of the debate is FIFA’s plan to expand the Club World Cup from seven teams to 32 in next year’s tournament in the United States.

The expanded format will help boost revenue for FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s governing body, whose main money spinner is the quadrennial World Cup.

„Ultimately, the player associations believe that the aim of this new competition is to increase the wealth and power of football’s global governing body, without proper consideration of the impact on the players involved or other stakeholders in professional football,” Fifpro Europe said.

FIFA, which acts as the game’s governing body and tournament organizer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A person familiar with FIFA’s position insisted that the international competition calendar is approved by the 37-member elected FIFA Council, and rejected the idea that the schedule was imposed without sufficient dialogue.

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The issue is an important one, given the potential for negative public perception of highly paid footballers complaining about their workload. Despite advances in nutrition, recovery and sports science, players say the human body has limits and that overload can harm their own health and the view of fans.

England star Jude Bellingham, 20, has played almost five times as many minutes as former captain David Beckham before he turned 21, according to Fifpro.

Fifpro Europe warned that the players’ „entitlement to a guaranteed annual break” is „non-existent” and the Club World Cup will occupy the only possible period of rest.

„With all attempts at negotiation having failed, it is now up to us to ensure that the players’ fundamental rights are fully respected by taking this matter to the European courts and the ECJ,” said Fifpro Europe President David Terrier.

„It is not a question of tarnishing a particular match, but of denouncing both the underlying problem and the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he added.

Law firm Dupont-Hissel represents Fifpro’s member unions at the Brussels Trade Court.

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