Women’s World Cup: European clubs call on nations to stick to player release rules

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European clubs have called on national associations to stick to the rules around the release of players for this year’s Women’s World Cup.

Fifa regulations state the mandatory release date for players is 10 July – 10 days before the opening game.

But some countries, including holders the United States, have arranged friendlies before that date.

England are yet to arrange a friendly but it is anticipated they will play one before flying out on 5 July.

The Women’s World Cup runs from 20 July to 20 August in Australia and New Zealand.

The USA face Wales on 9 July, the Netherlands host Belgium on 2 July and Germany are set to play Vietnam on 24 June.

While these dates do not clash with European domestic league fixtures, clubs are concerned at the load being placed on their players after the World Cup and want them to get adequate rest beforehand.

The first round of the Women’s Champions League is scheduled for 6-9 September, less than three weeks after the World Cup ends. The French League starts on 16 September and the Women’s Super League on 29 September.

The European Clubs’ Association (ECA) said it was “concerned about the volume of alerts from our member clubs” on national sides calling up players for international duty outside the mandatory release windows.

It added: “European clubs will seek to strictly adhere to the mandatory release period and request that the rules governing the release of players to their national teams to be respected ahead of the tournament.”

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Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said there needs to be more “strict, stringent restrictions” on when players can be called up.

“We have to reflect on the number of injuries that have taken place in the women’s game and the duty of care we have for players – there is a valid argument of sticking to those windows,” she said.

“In the last three years, players have had so little rest. It’s not enough.

“I can’t speak for this upcoming tournament and I’m not involved in those decisions but as the game moves more from amateur to professional there has to be strict player welfare and we need to look at players having more rest.”

European champions England have several major injury concerns for the World Cup.

Captain Leah Williamson will miss the tournament with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, while Beth Mead, who finished top scorer last summer, is also unlikely to recover from an ACL injury in time.

Barcelona defender Lucy Bronze has had keyhole surgery on her knee but is expected to be fit within a month.

There are doubts over the availability of Chelsea forward Fran Kirby, who has been out of action since February, while Chelsea defender Millie Bright has also been on crutches with a knee injury sustained in March.

ECA head of women’s football Claire Bloomfield said there is “a serious concern for player welfare” over this matter.

She added: “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.”

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