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FIFA offers to meet players' union, leagues after fixture congestion fury

Aurelien Meunier - FIFA / FIFA / Getty

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA offered peace talks to the global networks of player unions and domestic leagues on Friday after they threatened legal action about soccer's congested international calendar.

FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association aired long-held frustrations at FIFA adding new and bigger events — including a revamped 32-team Club World Cup next year and a 48-team men's World Cup in 2026 — without fully consulting their members, they claimed.

The 2024-25 schedule in European soccer also will be squeezed by UEFA expanding its three main club competitions, including a Champions League format with 36 teams. UEFA club events will occupy 10 midweeks of fixtures dates, including two new ones in January, instead of the current six.

FIFA defended its role in managing the international calendar in writing to both soccer organizations, offering to "identify suitable dates and locations" for a meeting, in a letter seen by The Associated Press.

All parties should meet in London on the sidelines of the Champions League final on June 1 at Wembley Stadium. Real Madrid plays Borussia Dortmund in a marquee game typically attended by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

A meeting is possible in the pause between club seasons, later in June into mid-July, FIFA interim secretary general Mattias Grafstrom wrote in the letter.

Grafstrom pushed back on claims FIFA prioritized its business interests over the well-being of players and domestic leagues, and questioned if FIFPRO and World Leagues had threatened legal action against other competition organizers.

FIFA was responsible, Grafstrom wrote, for "a fractional amount of the total elite club games around the world," and had a duty to reinvest its billions of dollars of revenue in developing the game in 211 member federations.

He added, "While we disagree with the tenor and content of your letter, we have nonetheless taken note of your concerns and are more than happy to continue our ongoing dialogue on this important topic."

Key FIFA decisions and projects in recent years have emerged since May 2021 when it shut down the Football Stakeholders Committee that included union and league officials, plus representative of clubs and national federations.

That panel was created four years earlier to debate and prepare changes to soccer regulations and competitions.


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