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Footballers’ unions take FIFA to court over expanded Club World Cup

European player unions, spearheaded by England’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and their French counterparts, have taken FIFA to court over the controversial expansion of the men’s Club World Cup.

The unions are following through on previous threats to challenge the tournament schedule. The showpiece, which will feature 32 teams, has been slated for the United States next summer.

The games will be played over a month rather than the few days it used to eat up in the football calendar.

Global footballers’ union FIFPRO filed a legal claim with the Brussels Court of Commerce on Thursday, contesting the legality of FIFA’s decisions ‘to unilaterally set the international match calendar and, in particular, the decision to create and schedule the FIFA Club World Cup 2025’.

PFA chief executive Maheta Molango emphasised the importance of this action, saying (via The Athletic): “This is an important moment for players and for their rights as employees.

“Everyone across football knows that the fixture calendar is broken to the point that it has now become unworkable.”

The PFA is seeking to protect players’ right to guaranteed rest periods. The 2024/25 season will transition into the 2025/26 campaign with barely any breaks for the players.

The Premier League season concludes on May 25, and the Champions League final follows just six days later.

There is a brief international window between June 2 and 10 before the Club World Cup kicks off on June 14 and runs until July 13.

The Premier League resumes in mid-August, leaving minimal time for the players to recover and reset for next season.

The legal claim seeks to have the Brussels court refer the matter to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.

Jean-Louis Dupont, a key figure in the legal team that secured the landmark Bosman transfer ruling in 1995, is leading the charge for FIFPRO.

FIFPRO argues that these decisions violate the rights of players and their unions under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and potentially violate EU competition law.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino previously dismissed threats of legal action as a futile debate. He argued that even with the expanded Club World Cup, FIFA organises around 1% of the games of the top clubs in the world and that these matches finance football worldwide.

The governing body maintains they have the authority to set the parameters of competitions while respecting the regulatory framework in place.

However, FIFPRO’s legal challenge throws a spanner into FIFA’s plans, potentially delaying or even derailing the expanded Club World Cup.

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