Caf urges UK government to allow players’ release

The policy came to light when Mohamed Salah was not allowed to travel to Egypt

The UK government should exempt African international footballers from its travel restrictions to allow them to travel to next week’s World Cup qualifiers, African football’s governing body has said.

Current UK rules designed to limit the spread of coronavirus mean that countries on the British “red list” – including several African nations – are unable to call on players based in the Premier League for international matches.

The policy came to light when Egypt announced on Monday that it had been unable to call up Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

The British Government needed to “urgently provide the required exemptions to enable African players to compete for their countries in the upcoming Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers,” Caf said in a statement.

The letter follows one from world football’s governing body Fifa to the UK government asking much the same thing, although that one also addressed authorities in Spain, which has a similar policy.

A government spokesperson confirmed to BBC Sport the Prime Minister has received the Fifa letter and will respond accordingly.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport added: “We have made clear to Fifa that our existing policy will remain in place and we have no plans to change that policy. That policy is in place in order to protect public health.”

Caf’s letter drew attention to “similar exemptions were granted by the British Government to enable the attendance of delegations and officials, amongst others, at the finals of the European Championship held less than two months ago.”

However, it is believed the UK government’s view is that the Euro 2020 exemptions were critically different in that the players were much more tightly controlled at the tournament.

Fifa’s president Gianni Infantino has said this issue is a “matter of great urgency and importance”.

“Many of the best players in the world compete in leagues in England and Spain, and we believe these countries also share the responsibility to preserve and protect the sporting integrity of competitions around the world.”

The Premier League said its clubs “reluctantly but unanimously” came to the decision not to release players, adding that “extensive talks” had taken place with the Football Association and government “to find a solution” but that “no exemption had been granted”.

The English Football League has also backed the Premier League’s stance and will not allow its players to travel to countries on the red list.

Source: BBC