FIFA have published updated guidelines to encourage a coordinated response across football to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The guidelines provide a degree of comfort to supporters (and most Liverpool fans) that FIFA would like to see the 2019/20 completed when it is safe to do so. This supports what seems to be the viewpoint held by some. The main message coming through these guidelines is one of co-operation, with FIFA encouraging clubs and players to reach agreement between themselves.
The guidelines will be welcomed by the significant number of players who felt that they were “in limbo”, whose contracts are due to come to an end June 2020. As FIFA state, with the current suspension in play, it is obvious that the current season will not end as initially thought. As such, contracts should be extended until whenever the end of the season may in fact be. Similarly, it is FIFA's intention that contracts (such as Hakim Ziyech’s move to Chelsea) which are due to commence next season, will do so whenever the 2020/21 season does commence. This seems sensible, given the intention of the parties when entering into the contracts, however many clubs will not have budgeted for additional months of certain players’ salaries, potentially adding to some clubs’ financial turmoil. The measures taken by some clubs in reducing players’ salaries may go some way to ease financial pressure caused by this change though.
Another area which faced uncertainty was that of transfer windows. FIFA have acknowledged that it is necessary to adjust the usual regulatory position and have emphasised the need for flexibility in uncertain circumstances such as these.
FIFA ask the various stakeholders to take a cooperative approach, however they will consider disputes on a case-by-case basis based on a number of factors (set out in the guidelines).
In the face of such uncertainty, these new guidelines provide some clarity and demonstrate FIFA’s intention to complete the 2019/20 season. Questions remain however about the timing of transfer windows and contracts where different countries recover from the pandemic at different rates (for example, it may be that the 2019/20 Bundesliga seasons can be completed a great deal of time before Serie A). Of course, as with most regulatory changes, there will be some issues to iron out – but these guidelines are a step in the right direction.
Following the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 at all levels of football, FIFA has worked on a series of recommendations and guidelines to address some of the key practical issues arising from the pandemic, especially with regard to player contracts and the transfer system generally.