club or country? how about club and country?

Image courtesy of zapiro.com

MAKATI, Philippines – Much has been made of the conflict between serving one’s country and fulfilling one’s commercial contractual obligations. To serve one’s country is one of, if not, the highest honor(s) that an athlete can receive. No ifs, no buts.

Playing for your country, however, does not necessarily and in fact, shouldn’t come in conflict with an athlete’s commitment to a team or club from which he derives his livelihood. This is particularly true in football where FIFA’s rules consider the interests of both club and country. This is a concession to the realization that for football to be successful it needs both national teams and they international competitions that they compete in and clubs and club competitions to be successful.

FIFA’s rules governing national team call-ups are quite comprehensive and detailed. To shed some light on this, print verbatim Annexe 1 (Release of players to association teams) of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.

1 Principles

1. Clubs are obliged to release their registered players to the representative teams of the country for which the player is eligible to play on the basis of his nationality if they are called up by the association concerned. Any agreement between a player and a club to the contrary is prohibited.

2. The release of players under the terms of paragraph 1 of this article is mandatory for matches on dates listed in the coordinated international match calendar and for all matches for which a duty to release players exists on the basis of a special decision by the FIFA Executive Committee.

3. It is not compulsory to release players for matches scheduled on dates not listed in the coordinated international match calendar.

4. Players must also be released for the period of preparation before the match, which is laid down as follows:

a) friendly matches: 48 hours;

b) qualifying matches for an international tournament:

– four days (including the day of the match). The release period shall be extended to fi ve days if the match concerned is held in a different confederation to the one in which the player’s club is registered;

– prior to double-dates (Friday – Tuesday) listed in the coordinated international match calendar, the release period shall in any case be five days prior to the beginning of the time span fixed by the calendar (including the relevant Friday);

c) qualifying matches for an international tournament that are staged on a date reserved for friendly matches: 48 hours;

d) friendly matches that are staged on a date reserved for qualifying matches for an international tournament: 48 hours;

e) the final competition of an international tournament: 14 days before the first match in the competition.

Players shall join the association team no later than 48 hours before kick-off.

5. The players of associations that have automatically qualified for the final competition of the FIFA World Cup™ or for continental championships for national “A” teams shall be released for friendly matches on dates reserved for official qualifying matches in accordance with the directives that would apply for official matches staged on those dates.

6. The clubs and associations concerned may agree a longer period of release.

7. Players complying with a call-up from their association under the terms of this article shall resume duty with their clubs no later than 24 hours after the end of the match for which they were called up. This period shall be extended to 48 hours if the match concerned took place in a different confederation to the one in which the player’s club is registered. Clubs shall be informed in writing of a player’s outbound and return schedule ten days before the match. Associations shall ensure that players are able to return to their clubs on time after the match.

8. If a player does not resume duty with his club by the deadline stipulated in this article, the next time the player is called up by his association, the period of release shall be shortened as follows:

a) friendly matches: 24 hours;

b) qualifying matches: three days;

c) the final competition of an international tournament: ten days.

9. Should an association repeatedly breach these provisions, the FIFA Players’ Status Committee may impose appropriate sanctions, including but not limited to:

a) fines;

b) a reduction of the period of release;

c) a ban on calling up a player(s) for subsequent match(es).

2 Financial provisions and insurance

1. Clubs releasing a player in accordance with the provisions of this annexe are not entitled to financial compensation.

2. The association calling up a player shall bear the costs of travel incurred by the player as a result of the call-up.

3. The club with which the player concerned is registered shall be responsible for his insurance cover against illness and accident during the entire period of his release. This cover must also extend to any injuries sustained by the player during the international match(es) for which he was released.

3 Calling up players

1. As a general rule, every player registered with a club is obliged to respond affirmatively when called up by the association he is eligible to represent on the basis of his nationality to play for one of its representative teams.

2. Associations wishing to call up a player who is playing abroad must notify the player in writing at least 15 days before the day of the match for which he is required. Associations wishing to call up a player for the final competition of an international tournament must notify the player in writing at least 15 days before the beginning of the 14-day preparation period (cf. Annexe 1 article 1 paragraph 4 e)). The player’s club shall also be informed in writing at the same time. The club must confirm the release of the player within the following six days.

3. Associations that request FIFA’s help to obtain the release of a player playing abroad may only do so under the following two conditions:

a) The association at which the player is registered has been asked to intervene without success.

b) The case is submitted to FIFA at least five days before the day of the match for which the player is needed.

4 Injured players

A player who due to injury or illness is unable to comply with a call-up from the association that he is eligible to represent on the basis of his nationality shall, if the association so requires, agree to undergo a medical examination by a doctor of that association’s choice. If the player so wishes, such medical examination shall take place on the territory of the association at which he is registered.

5 Restrictions on playing

A player who has been called up by his association for one of its representative teams is, unless otherwise agreed by the relevant association, not entitled to play for the club with which he is registered during the period for which he has been released or should have been released pursuant to the provisions of this annexe. This restriction on playing for the club shall, moreover, be prolonged by five days in the event that the player, for whatsoever reason, did not wish to or was unable to comply with the call-up.

6 Disciplinary measures

1. Violations of any of the provisions set forth in this annexe shall result in the imposition of disciplinary measures.

2. If a club refuses to release a player or neglects to do so despite the provisions of this annexe, the FIFA Players’ Status Committee shall furthermore request the association to which the club belongs to declare any match(es) in which the player took part to have been lost by the club concerned. Any points thus gained by the club in question shall be forfeited. Any match contested according to the cup system shall be regarded as having been won by the opposing team, irrespective of the score.

3. If a player reports late for duty with his club more than once after being called up by an association, the FIFA Players’ Status Committee may, at the request of the player’s club, impose additional sanctions on the player and/or his association.”

As I said the rules are quite comprehensive and detailed. It does, however, leave some room for the association or federation and the clubs to agree to deviate from these upon mutual consent. So there.

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