Monday 06 September 2021, 20:00

FIFA President calls for stakeholder input at ECA General Assembly

  • President Infantino made virtual address to 26th ECA General Assembly

  • The vital balance between club and national team football emphasised

  • Mr Infantino said: “We all have to protect football.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has advocated solidarity among the football community as a means of fostering a stronger future for the sport, during his address to the 26th General Assembly of the European Club Association.

The speech, delivered by video to the event in Geneva, focused on the need for balance as well as the strong collaboration between FIFA and a wide range of stakeholders – including European clubs – in general terms, as well as through the challenges faced by the game throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that compromise would be needed to work through the forthcoming international windows on the roadmap to FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and referenced an extensive consultation process that will engage all of football’s stakeholders in search of a stronger international match calendar for football’s future.

“It’s important to the fans that we protect clubs and that we protect national teams,” said Mr Infantino. “There is only one football that we have, even though the interests might diverge from time to time. We all have to protect football and we all have to protect global football.”

FIFA has shown flexibility in working on a range of matters that have come to the fore through the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, amending regulations on player status, allowing the extension of the expiry and commencing of players’ contracts for the benefit of both the clubs and their players.

That adaptable approach was also applied to players being permitted to be registered with three clubs per season, rather than two, and the postponement of FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in March 2021 at a critical time of the European domestic seasons.

“To be FIFA President and to be in FIFA requires some flexibility and some adaptability, and you have to face some challenges for which you were not prepared,” added President Infantino. “That is why we need your understanding and your collaboration. We know that we cannot make everyone happy, but we must try and understand one another.

“We have to do that even more because now, a phase of consultation starts and all of you – all clubs, all leagues, all associations and all football fans and lovers – will be involved and are involved in the consultation process. We need to think about the calendar: I think that these particular situations that we are experiencing nowadays with the release of players shows us that we have to do something. We have to protect the health of players and save them some travel.”

Mr Infantino referenced recent events in Afghanistan, Guinea and Brazil as examples of how FIFA has to be reactive to evolving situations around the world and strengthen the foundations of the game through the consultation process on the calendar.

“It is simply a way to try and make football – and global football – stronger,” he concluded. “And for this, we need the help and assistance of everyone. We are, and will be, approaching everyone. And we hope we can find something which suits European clubs but also clubs and associations from all over the world.”