The 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 concern over making the trip during the coronavirus pandemic.
FIFPRO said it was «disappointed and concerned» about the lack of consultation, adding players had complained about the risks of travelling, and that quarantine would interfere with family life, games and training.
The AFC, however, said it had been in «constant communication» with clubs and national associations during the pandemic, and countries in Asia’s East were given the chance to host games.
The delayed AFC Champions League East competition, — featuring clubs from Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand — runs from November 18 to December 4 in a bio-secure «bubble» in Qatar, followed by knockout games leading 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 in Qatar after 30 players and staff tested positive, leaving them unable to name a minimum 13-player match-day squad.
The AFC said it consulted widely before deciding where to hold the East zone games, and said it took into account Qatar’s «expertise and capability to put in place the highest standards of health and safety protocols».
«The decision to stage the AFC Champions League (East) in Qatar was taken only after receiving no expressions of interest from the East region,» the AFC said in a statement to AFP.
All players and officials will be tested before travelling to Qatar, and on arrival, and every three to six days during the tournament, it added.
«The safety of everyone involved remains the AFC’s highest priority,» the governing body said.
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.»