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Premier League Clubs to Refuse Release of Players for World Cup Qualifiers

Players whose national teams will be in UK red listed countries will not be released, including Mohamed Salah and Liverpool’s Brazilian trio.

West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

On Monday, news broke that Liverpool had refused to release Mohamed Salah for the upcoming September international break when the Egyptian national team announced to the world that the English side intended not to allow him to play in their World Cup qualifier against Angola.

Shortly afterwards, it emerged it wasn’t a decision limited to Liverpool and Salah. Instead, it was a decision made in coordination with European Club Association, who were taking the collective stance players who would be required to quarantine on their return to clubs should not be released.

Today, following a meeting of all Premier League clubs, there is further news: as things stand, no English side will release a player for the September or October international break if it means that player will be heading to a country on the UK government’s red list of coronavirus hotspots.

“Premier League clubs have today reluctantly but unanimously decided not to release players for international matches in red-list countries,” read a league statement. “The clubs’ decision, which is strongly supported by the Premier League, will apply to nearly 60 players from 19 Premier League clubs.”

FIFA’s current position is that clubs must release players no matter the extenuating circumstances of an ongoing global pandemic, and over the past 24 hours as news of the stance of English clubs and the ECA has become clear, FIFA have made noises suggesting that stance is not changing.

Outside the Premier League, Paris Saint-Germain are also believed to be highly reluctant to release a number of high profile internationals—including Lionel Messi—with the number of clubs collectively opposed to FIFA’s stance potentially making it difficult for the governing body to sanction them.

“Premier League clubs have always supported their players’ desires to represent their countries,” said league CEO Richard Masters. “However, clubs have reluctantly but rightly come to the conclusion that it would be entirely unreasonable to release players under these new circumstances.

“Quarantine requirements mean that players’ welfare and fitness will be significantly impacted. We understand the challenges that exist in the international match calendar and remain open to workable solutions.”