FIFA says foreign players in Russia, Ukraine can break contracts

Foreign players and coaches allowed to temporarily break their contracts as Russia intensifies its attack on Ukraine.

Russia's players celebrate after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between Russia and Cyprus in Saint Petersburg on November 11, 2021.
Russia's players celebrate after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between Russia and Cyprus in Saint Petersburg on November 11, 2021 [File: Olga Maltseva/ AFP]

FIFA says foreign footballers and coaches working at Russian and Ukrainian clubs will be allowed to temporarily break their contracts and move elsewhere due to Russia’s continuing assault on its neighbour.

In a statement on Monday, football’s world governing body said clubs in other countries will be allowed to sign up to two players who had been at clubs in Russia or Ukraine outside of the transfer window.

But the moves are only authorised until the end of the season on June 30.

Sports bodies have barred Russia from international competition following the invasion of Ukraine and FIFA said the new measures were designed “to facilitate the departure of foreign players and coaches from Russia” should they wish to leave.

“Foreign players and coaches will have the right to unilaterally suspend their employment contracts until the end of the season in Russia,” it said.

“Players and coaches will be considered ‘out of contract’ until 30 June 2022 and will therefore be at liberty to sign a contract with another club without facing consequences of any kind.”

Ukraine’s league has been suspended since war engulfed the country, and its players are also allowed to temporarily leave until June 30, it said.

And players and coaches will be free to move on permanently next season.

FIFA explained the move was chiefly to provide players and coaches with the opportunity to work and receive a salary, and to protect Ukrainian clubs brought to a halt by invasion.

Minor players fleeing Ukraine will be treated by FIFA as refugee minors, allowing them access to the international transfer market normally closed to those under 18.

The player’s union, FIFPRO, however, said the measures were not enough.

“The decision … to allow foreign players to only suspend their contracts and thus only temporarily leave Russian clubs is too timid,” FIFPRO said in a statement.

“It will be hard for players to find employment for the remainder of the season with uncertainty looming over them and, within a few weeks, they will be in a very difficult situation once again.

“It is unsatisfactory even for players who are tied to short-term contracts in Russia – where contracts typically end in December – and who may not want or be able to return after 30 June 2022… FIFPRO communicated to FIFA last week that these players should be allowed to terminate their contracts.”

FIFPRO asked that FIFA, and its European counterpart UEFA, set up a fund to help players and coaches in Ukraine.

“It is disappointing that other stakeholders in this process were not prepared to agree to this important step,” it said.

“For players, coaches and others in Ukraine, we consider it essential that UEFA and FIFA widen professional football’s response to the war by establishing a fund to support all those in the industry who are affected.”

After Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, FIFA suspended the country from international football games last week but has yet to suspend its football federation or officials.

But the umbrella organisation representing European leagues has already expelled Russia’s top leagues as members.

Source: News Agencies