Sarina Wiegman: England’s club vs country row is frustrating my World Cup plans

Sarina Wiegman, England Women's Head Coach, speaks during the World Cup Squad Announcement on May 31, 2023 - Getty Images/Morgan Harlow

Sarina Wiegman says she is frustrated that an ongoing row with Europe’s leading clubs is putting her World Cup preparations in major doubt.

The England head coach, who named her squad on Wednesday, wants them to meet up at St George’s Park from June 19, just over a month before the tournament begins Down Under, to start their training camp.

But that is at odds with a global agreement reached in May by Fifa, the European Club association and other stakeholders, which recommended that clubs should not release their players to their national teams before June 23.

According to multiple Telegraph Sport sources, the leading English Women’s Super League clubs and German giants Bayern Munich are unwilling to allow their players to join any national team camps before June 23, because they believe players need a longer post-season break. They feel they have already compromised significantly from the original, mandatory release date which is the start of the international window on July 10.

Wiegman is hoping the clubs can still be persuaded but while the debate goes on, England are not able to confirm whether they will be holding a farewell, warm-up friendly on home soil before they fly to Australia on July 5.

“I still hope we can negotiate,” Wiegman said, when asked about the strong stance of England midfielder Georgia Stanway’s club, Bayern Munich. “At this point it’s hard, but we’re trying to get the conversation going again.

“Of course, that’s frustrating because we have all our plans and we thought we were all set and then like a month ago, all of a sudden, things change – we didn’t expect that, it is so late. I do understand, it’s about the calendar. It’s really hard. It’s about players having rest, after the tournament players need to have rest.

“We already had this plan from November last year. We have our principles, we have the knowledge, we have the expertise and the experience, so we made the plan, starting on the 19th [of June], we spoke about that with the captains group, and then we spoke about it with the players.

“We are in contact with clubs now and it’s very constructive but it’s not finalised yet. When you’re in a top-sport environment, when you go to a World Cup, it’s the highest level, the most intensity and volume, so you have to be at your highest levels.

“We also know that if you have more than two weeks’ rest, which if you start later then you have 26 days of no football, that’s not good preparation for the players and the welfare of the player wouldn’t be good, so that’s why we want to start on the 19th.

“It’s not only the physiology, it’s also the decision-making in football and getting really ready to start when we start on the 22nd [of July v Haiti] and knowing we’re going to the other side of the world, that takes a couple of days too.

“It’s two days for travelling, you can’t start training straight away because you first have to do the jet-lag, so we really need that time to get prepared, so I just hope that we keep going with the good conversations and we resolve this.”

According to sources, England are hoping to face Portugal in a friendly at Stadium MK on July 1 but no such fixture has been confirmed. Asked about any possible warm-up match, Wiegman replied: “The reason why we can’t tell [you] anything about that has to do with when we start [training].

“If we start on the 19th we have enough days to get ready for such a game, if we start later then the players are even longer out from football and then you have too short a time to get ready for a fixture. I just hope we can do that and play that fixture but I can’t say anything about that now.”

France, Germany and the Republic of Ireland are understood to be among the others who want to start training prior to June 23. Olympic champions Canada are believed to be asking for an even earlier start date of June 12, which is understood to have left clubs angry.

The ECA’s head of women’s football, Claire Bloomfield, previously described early call-ups as “a serious concern for player welfare”.