SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - Tuesday, June 19, 2018: Egypt's Mohamed Salah lines-up before the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Group A match between Russia and Egypt at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Premier League clubs could refuse call-ups for next AFCON amid fixture clash

Clubs will be able to refuse the release of players to the Africa Cup of Nations under FIFA’s rules if the competition concludes in January 2026 as expected.

The PA news agency understands the AFCON due to be played in the summer of 2025 is being moved, in part due to FIFA’s scheduling of the 32-team Club World Cup.

The new dates are understood to be December 21 to January 18, cutting right across the Premier League festive programme and only just missing at either side dates for Champions League match rounds.

However, it appears FIFA rules governing the release of players will mean clubs are within their rights to block players going to either the AFCON or the World Cup later in 2026.

2WCAEKC January 14 2024: Mohamed Salah Salah Mahrous Ghaly (Egypt) celebrates the second goal during a African Cup of Nations Group B game, Egypt vs Mozambique, at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Kim Price/CSM (Credit Image: © Kim Price/Cal Sport Media) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

“It is not compulsory to release the same player for more than one ‘A’ representative team final competition per year,” FIFA’s regulations on the status and transfer of players state.

The 2021 AFCON was ultimately played in January and February 2022, but in that instance the rescheduling by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was due to the Covid-19 pandemic rather than another tournament.

FIFA has been contacted for comment.

The calendar clash comes at a time when FIFA is facing a legal challenge in the Belgian courts from player unions including the Professional Footballers’ Association over its scheduling of the Club World Cup.

The unions want the European Court of Justice to make a preliminary ruling on whether FIFA has breached the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in its decision to introduce the new Club World Cup format.

“Everyone across football knows that the fixture calendar is broken to the point that it has now become unworkable,” PFA chief executive Maheta Molango said last week.

“Too many within football act like it is exempt from the normal requirements of employers and employees. Players are not being listened to and they want to see action.”