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The European Club Association (ECA) on Wednesday has told the Women’s World Cup teams that European clubs should not release their players until 10 days prior to the tournament, which could set off a club vs. country row later this year.

The ECA has issued a statement saying its member clubs — a body which represents European domestic club interest — are opposed to releasing players for international duty this summer outside of the official agreed window amid rising concerns over player welfare.

With the World Cup starting on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand, the current agreement states clubs should not have to release their players until the “Monday morning of the week preceding the week when the relevant final competition starts,” meaning players should only link up with their countries on July 10.

This statement will likely cause alarm among European national associations given many World Cup camps are currently scheduled to begin in early- to mid-June.

As has happened in previous tournaments, players in European leagues are usually given a fortnight or so off after their last domestic game of the season before linking up with their international team ahead of the World Cup or European Championships.

But the ECA said such a practise is archaic and amid concerns over the number of injuries in the women’s game, the ECA has called on clubs and nations to respect the agreed window as dictated by the International Match Calendar (IMC) and only have access to the players just 10 days prior to the start of the World Cup.

ECA head of women’s football, Claire Bloomfield said: “This is not a matter of financial compensation or the absence of adequate protection and insurance, but a serious concern for player welfare.

“The issue of early call-ups is a hangover from the game in its amateur form and is detrimental to the future success and growth of women’s football. They also generate a great deal of unnecessary tension in the relationship between clubs and their players.

“We were given a very clear mandate by our member clubs which includes engaging in constructive and direct communication with our key stakeholders and partners, and this will be our focus in the coming days.”

The ECA refers to the signing of the memorandum of understanding between itself and FIFA, through to 2030, which reinforces the relationship between the two parties.

Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes was asked about the ECA’s stance on Wednesday in the pre-match press conference before their Champions League semifinal second leg.

“I think we have to reflect on the number of injuries that have taken place in the women’s game and say ultimately the duty of care we have to players,” Hayes said. “And I think there’s a valid argument to sticking to windows. There’s a reason and rationale to 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,” she said.

“It’s not enough. I can’t speak for this upcoming tournament, I’m not involved in those decisions being made, but I do think that as the women’s game has progressed from the amateur game into the professional game that there have to be more stringent restrictions on player welfare. I respect they want to win their tournaments but we seriously have to look at players having more rest.”

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ECA player-release stance threatens Women’s World Cup team preparation