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Volume 7 No. 149

International Football

A third European club competition with the working title "Europa League 2" will be introduced from '21, according to the BBC. One English team will enter the playoffs of the new tournament, while Scottish sides "may miss out on Europa League places in a reshuffle." As part of UEFA's '21-24 cycle, the Europa League "will be halved in size to 32 teams" with an extra playoff round between the group stage and last 16. The new tournament will be played on Thursdays alongside the Europa League. The new competition and Europa League will have the same format -- eight groups of four teams with the winner going into the last 16. There will be a playoff before that round for the teams who finish second in the group and sides who finish third in the groups of the higher tournament. The winners of the tournament will qualify for the following season's Europa League (BBC, 12/2).

Chelsea and other top Premier League clubs have been “warned that they have only one more season to complete a dramatic overhaul of their squads to comply” with FIFA’s new loan regulations, according to Matt Hughes of the LONDON TIMES. FIFA’s proposals to “reduce the number of players that clubs can send out on loan have been ratified,” and the governing body has “told clubs that it will introduce the new limit from the start” of the ‘20-21 season. Chelsea currently has 39 players out on loan, and “from the season after next, that number will be strictly limited to between six and eight, which will have huge implications for the club’s business model and the way that they develop young players.” Under proposals that have now been approved by the FIFA council, there will also be a “smaller limit on the number of players that can be loaned to any one club, which could also adversely affect Chelsea”. This season the club has three players on loan at Vitesse Arnhem and has sent several players to the Dutch club every year since ’10. FIFA’s proposals have been “developed by a task force created by its football stakeholders committee as part of a wider overhaul of the transfer system” (LONDON TIMES, 12/1).

CHANGE IN THE AIR: In London, Paul Hirst reported Man City Manager Pep Guardiola “admitted” that his club will be “forced to revamp" its transfer policy and sell a number of young players because of FIFA’s plans to "clamp down on loans.” He said, “The new rules are coming, we’re going to see the situation about loan players and adapt. If we cannot loan them, they are going to come back here.” In London, Paul Hirst noted Man City is “among those who will be hit the hardest by the rule change, which is designed to prevent teams from stockpiling players.” For the past few years, Man City has also “bought dozens of teenagers in the hope of developing them into first-team players or selling them on for a profit” (LONDON TIMES, 12/1).

FIFA is "examining allegations that members of the Afghanistan national women's team were sexually and physically abused by men from the country's football federation," including Afghanistan Football Federation President Keramuudin Karim, according to Suzanne Wrack of the London GUARDIAN. The claims have "prompted the team’s principal sponsor, Hummel, to cut ties" with the AFF and "call for new leadership." The Danish sportswear manufacturer said it was "presented with strong allegations of severe mental, physical, sexual and equal-rights abuse of the female players by male AFF officials." Senior figures associated with the Afghanistan women's team said that the abuse "took place inside the country, including at the federation’s headquarters, and at a training camp in Jordan last February." AFF Program & Event Dir of the Afghanistan women's national team Khalida Popal, who was "forced to flee the country" in '16 and seek asylum in Denmark, has spoken, together with players Shabnam Mobarez and Mina Ahmadi and coach Kelly Lindsey, "about the ordeal of players within the country and their frustrations with a system that, they feel, has failed to protect them." The AFF in a statement said it "vigorously rejects the false accusations made with regard to the AFF’s women’s national team." It added that it has a "zero-tolerance policy towards any such type of behaviour." FIFA "confirmed it was investigating the claims." A source said that FIFA was "working with the United Nations on some players' safety." The source said, "FIFA has been fully aware of the situation in Afghanistan and has been working hard to secure the safety of the girls." Popal said that, in the course of an investigation she has carried out into the allegations, she "heard claims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, death threats and rape." She said, "It was very difficult for us, living in the country, to talk about these things because these are very powerful guys. If a player from Afghanistan raised a voice they can get killed" (London GUARDIAN, 12/1).