FIFPRO: Rules to protect players’ health must be part of Champions League revamp

Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·3-min read

Rules around player workload must be part of the agreement on Champions League reform, according to world players’ union FIFPRO.

European football’s clubs and leagues, along with UEFA, seem to have reached a consensus that a ‘Swiss system’ should replace the existing group phase from 2024, but disagree over how many extra matches that should involve.

FIFPRO, which looks after the interests of male and female professional players across the globe and has been part of the talks on the future of European club competitions, says the calendar itself is not its biggest concern.

  • One 36-team league to replace the current 32-team, eight groups of four format.

  • Each team to play 10 matches under a 'Swiss system' based on seeding, compared to six in current format.

  • Teams finishing in ninth to 24th in the league to play off for the final eight places in the last 16.

It wants a framework to be put in place to protect individual players from excessive workloads.

“The leagues are trying to negotiate a smaller increase in the number of games, but that doesn’t resolve our problem,” FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told the PA news agency.

“What we have stated for some time now is that any increase in the number of games, without putting in a protective framework for the health of the players, is something we wouldn’t support.”

Baer-Hoffmann says the framework must cover such issues as the duration of off-season breaks, in-season breaks, rest days after international windows and so on.

“These kind of elements which manage load on an individual basis mean you don’t necessarily have to play less games, you have to spread the number of games amongst more players so that every individual player is taken care of better,” he said.

European football’s governing body UEFA hopes to strike an agreement over the format before talks on how revenues are distributed.

FIFPRO’s recently-published Shaping Our Future report found two-thirds of players around the world suffer at the hands of instability in the football market they play in, often resulting in unpaid wages.

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It wants a player hardship fund to form part of the new financial agreement.

“Any contribution an international tournament can make in the form of a fund to help players who are really living through hardship and are not making substantial salaries to start with, if that is something we could support, that would be very important to do,” Baer-Hoffmann said.

“We are having solidarity considerations to clubs and national federations, usually that money doesn’t benefit those players.

“So why not direct some of the money to this group who are really hard-hit by some of the governance inadequacies that exist among clubs and national federations?”