FIFA, the global governing body of football, is currently embroiled in a contentious legal battle initiated by FIFPRO’s European member unions regarding its plans to expand the Club World Cup in 2025. The decision to host an expanded tournament featuring 32 teams has sparked significant backlash from players' unions, who argue that FIFA's scheduling compromises player welfare and rights.

FIFPRO, representing footballers worldwide through its member unions such as the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) in England and the Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionnels (UNFP) in France, has filed a joint legal claim in the Brussels Court of Commerce. At the core of their argument is the contention that FIFA’s unilateral decision to hold the revamped Club World Cup in the United States from June 15 to July 13, 2025, disregards the fundamental rights of players.

Players welfare concerns

The primary concern raised by FIFPRO revolves around the demanding schedule imposed on players. The proposed dates for the Club World Cup come immediately after the conclusion of the 2024-25 season and an international window, leaving minimal time for players to recuperate physically and mentally. This intense schedule, coupled with a grueling season preceding it, heightens the risk of player fatigue, injuries, and overall burnout.

Maheta Molango, CEO of the PFA, emphasized the detrimental impact of the current fixture calendar: “The fixture calendar is broken to the point that it has now become unworkable.”

David Terrier, President of FIFPRO Europe, underscored the necessity of safeguarding players' rights: “Since all attempts at dialogue have failed, it is now up to us to ensure that the fundamental rights of players are fully respected by taking the matter to the European courts and thus to the ECJ.”

FIFA’s legal grounds and implications

FIFPRO's legal claim challenges FIFA on multiple grounds, seeking clarity and protection under the EU Charter of Rights. The union questions whether FIFA’s scheduling decisions infringe upon players' rights to adequate rest periods, the ability to collectively bargain over working conditions, and the assurance of healthy working environments guaranteed by European laws. Moreover, FIFPRO argues that FIFA's unilateral imposition of tournament schedules undermines fair competition and could potentially violate EU competition laws.

Jean-Louis Dupont, renowned for his pivotal role in the landmark Bosman ruling, leads FIFPRO’s legal team, underscoring the gravity of this legal challenge. The case outcome could set a precedent for how international football competitions are scheduled and managed regarding player welfare and rights.

FIFPRO’s legal action against FIFA signifies a critical stance in advocating for the rights and well-being of football players worldwide. Beyond addressing the specific scheduling of the Club World Cup, this case has broader implications for football governance and the responsibilities of governing bodies towards players. As the legal proceedings progress, stakeholders across the football community will closely monitor developments that could reshape the landscape of international football competitions and set new standards for player protection and welfare.