Global footballers union FIFPRO has accused the Asian Football Confederation of failing to consult players before moving Champions League games to Qatar, saying some had voiced concerns over making the trip during the pandemic.
FIFPRO said it was “disappointed and concerned” about the lack of consultation, adding that players had complained about the risks of travelling and about quarantine periods that will interfere with family life, games and training.
The delayed AFC Champions League East competition, featuring clubs from Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand, will run from November 18 to December 4 in a bio-secure “bubble” in Qatar, followed by knockout games leading up to the final in Doha on December 19.
“FIFPRO is disappointed and concerned by the lack of consultation of professional footballers in the scheduling of the AFC Champions League in Qatar and the planning of Covid-19 protocols,” a statement said.
“These matters have implications for their mental and physical health as well as their participation in domestic leagues.”
The global players union and affiliated associations in Australia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand, which represent 12 of the 16 clubs involved, were not consulted about the arrangements, FIFPRO said.
“Furthermore, we have not received any information about the outbreak of Covid-19 in the tournament’s so-called ‘medical bubble’ during the western AFC region competition in September,” it added.
Saudi giants Al Hilal were kicked out of the Champions League West competition in Qatar after 30 players and staff tested positive, leaving them unable to name the minimum 13-player match-day squad.
The AFC defended the bio-security arrangements in Qatar at the time, saying there had been “no transmission of Covid-19 between two competing teams throughout the matches”.
FIFPRO, which represents tens of thousands of footballers worldwide, called for “openness and direct consultation” in planning decisions, “as happens in other continents”.
“It is necessary now more than ever because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” the Netherlands-based body said. “The players whose health, financial situation and careers are on the line deserve to be part of these decisions.”
There was no immediate comment from the AFC. Last month, the AFC insisted players’ welfare was the “main priority” after FIFPRO accused it of being slow to provide support when the coronavirus suspended leagues around the region.