FIFA lets foreign players leave Russian clubs until June; players in Ukraine also allowed to move

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LONDON — FIFA intervened to allow foreign players and coaches based in Russia to leave their clubs, although only for the rest of the season.

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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 normal transfer window periods.

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

FIFPRO and the organization representing the world’s soccer leagues – the World Leagues Forum – sought permission for Russia-based players to terminate their contracts. But they were told by FIFA that players and coaches “will have the right to unilaterally suspend their employment contracts with the (Football Union of) Russia-affiliated clubs in question until the end of the season in Russia,” which is June 30.

Global players’ union FIFPRO criticized the FIFA decision as “too timid”

“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,” the Netherlands-based union said in a statement.

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

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

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There are hundreds of foreign players in Russia who would typically not be able to leave their clubs or sign for new ones outside the two transfer trading periods in the year.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia staged the 2018 World Cup. FIFA has declined to respond to questions from The Associated Press in detail about Russia over the last week or whether Infantino has been in contact with Putin, who awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship medal.

Russian clubs are already seeing foreigners leave, including two German coaches. Daniel Farke quit Krasnodar after seven weeks in the job and Markus Gisdol left Lokomotiv Moscow.

With players and coaches at Ukrainian clubs facing so much uncertainty, FIFPRO said it was “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.”