FIFA, Brazil and the Premier League's fixture schedule

Up until Italia 90, CONMEBOL's World Cup qualifying format had three groups, two groups of three teams and one group of four teams. For USA 94, there were two groups of five, with eight matches for each team. But since France 98, CONMEBOL is now a league between the 10 South American teams, with a total of 18 matches. This means more TV money for CONMEBOL, but also more travel involved for the players who play in Europe. There is also transoceanic travel to deal with, moving from summer to winter or vice versa in a matter of hours. Sooner or later the situation had to explode and it finally has, especially with the Premier League.

In LaLiga, two games scheduled for matchday 4 were postponed due to CONEMBOL's schedule, and the same will have to be done in October. As it turns out, those Premier League players might have to miss out anyway, thanks to a “five-day rule” which gives FIFA the power to ban players from any and all football matches for five days following an international period for which the players were not released. Violating it would mean defeat and a loss of three points. If the FA do not apply the punishment, FIFA could ban England from the World Cup. That is what the papers are saying. The Premier League remain in discussions and are currently looking to find a resolution. Affected clubs, including Liverpool, are contesting such a ruling given the unprecedented circumstances which prevented players from being able to travel and report for national team duty without needing to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their return to England.

This is the result of the 2021/22 fixture calendar being abused. If CONMEBOL returned to two groups of five, the matter would be more bearable. But the greed for the ever more lucrative TV rights is sweeping everything under the carpet. FIFA have a club World Cup ready and are flirting with the idea of a World Cup every two years, to which UEFA would respond with a European Championship every two years. The failed Super League consumed more matchdays than the Champions League, which in turn has been growing for years. This fight over the dates is a real calendar buster. I even think that only a major conflict between England and FIFA over the latter could provoke the necessary catharsis.