Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s chief women’s football officer, said previous disagreements over early call-ups for the Women’s World Cup are one of the “growing pains” in the women’s game, which she said is undergoing quick evolution.
Last month, FIFA and the European Club Association (ECA) loosened release date rules around when players can leave their clubs and join their national teams to prepare for this year’s World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20.
The decision came after the ECA said it was concerned about the “current widespread practice” of national federations calling up players for the World Cup before the mandatory release period starts on July 10.
The original date of July 10, 10 days before the tournament kicks off, drew criticism that a short break could put the health and well-being of players at risk and lead to an increase in injuries.
According to the player release framework agreed between FIFA and ECA, the mandatory release date remains July 10 for players whose clubs have matches up to that date, but players whose domestic seasons are completed can be released from June 23-29, which is four weeks before the World Cup starts.
“I think this is one of the growing pains,” Bareman said, according to an interview with The Athletic. “And I say that in a positive way. As our game starts to grow, the pressure, particularly at the elite end, on individual players, clubs and national associations starts to build. These kinds of issues are going to come out of the woodwork.
“I think it’s positive. I know a lot of people don’t see it that way, but it means that we’re able to highlight these things. and effectively, they’re happening because the evolution of our game is so fast. We launched the current calendar in 2018. Since then, to see how much the game has moved forward is remarkable.
“There is a beautiful collaborative spirit in the women’s game. That’s happening here with the player release. We worked very closely with ECA. Of course, regulations are regulations, they’re in place for a reason, and they’re black and white. But wherever possible, we try to encourage collaborative conversations and really make sure the player is at the centre of those; there are regulations.”
The ECA has said that the new framework strikes an important balance between players having sufficient rest while allowing adequate time to prepare for the World Cup.
Earlier, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes called for strict restrictions on international windows.
“There’s a reason and a rationale for those windows because, especially in the last three years, players have had so little rest – maybe a couple of weeks at the end of the season, it is not enough,” Hayes told reporters.
Several top players, including England captain Leah Williamson, U.S. captain Becky Sauerbrunn and Netherlands forward Vivianne Miedema, have been ruled out of the World Cup due to serious injuries.
This year’s World Cup, the ninth edition of the tournament, will feature 32 teams for the first time, up from 24 in the previous tournaments. The United States is the defending champion, having beaten the Netherlands in the final in 2019.
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