The Professional Footballers’ Association has joined a legal action against FIFA to protect players’ rights to guaranteed and protected breaks.

The English players’ union will be a co-claimant in a case to be heard in the Belgian courts, alongside its French counterpart UNFP and the European division of world players’ union FIFPRO.

The news comes after FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association warned FIFA last month they would take legal action if the sport’s global governing body did not reschedule the 32-team Club World Cup due to be played in the United States next summer.

FIFA and its president Gianni Infantino is being challenged in the Belgian courts
FIFA and its president Gianni Infantino is being challenged in the Belgian courts (Zac Goodwin/PA)

From a union perspective, the scheduling of that tournament is seen as a tipping point for the football calendar and players’ ability to take a meaningful break between seasons.

The case will be fought by the unions by Jean-Louis Dupont, who was part of the legal team which secured the landmark Bosman ruling in 1995 which revolutionised the transfer market.

The PFA said the Brussels Court of Commerce would be asked to refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

PFA chief executive Maheta Molango said: “This is an important moment for players and for their rights as employees.

“Everyone across football knows that the fixture calendar is broken to the point that it has now become unworkable.”

Molango added: “The most in-demand players are now part of an endless schedule of games and competitions for club and country, with their limits constantly being pushed through expansion and the creation of new competitions.

“I am constantly told by those members that what they want is a properly protected break where they can rest and recharge. Those who run the game know this.

“We have made sure they have heard it directly from players, but nothing has been done.

“There are too many emerging instances across football where the rights of players, and the legal implications of decisions by governing bodies and competition organisers, are seen as something that can just be ignored. Too many within football act like it is exempt from the normal requirements of employers and employees.

“Players are not being listened to and they want to see action. As their union, we have a duty to intervene and to enforce their legal rights as employees. Ultimately, that time has now come.”

The ECJ is being asked to provide a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of EU law as it relates to footballers’ rights under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including a player’s right to take an annual period of paid leave.

The ECJ’s ruling would then be referred back to the Belgian courts for a final ruling.

FIFA has not commented, but sources close to the governing body point out that the international match calendar was signed off by its ruling Council which features representation from all continental confederations, including UEFA.

They also insist that calendar was the result of extensive consultation, and reject any suggestion that it was imposed on the football community.

FIFA secretary general Mattias Grafstrom issued a robust defence of his organisation's position last month
FIFA secretary general Mattias Grafstrom issued a robust defence of his organisation’s position last month (Nick Potts/PA)

FIFA general secretary Mattias Grafstrom wrote a response to FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association last month in which he said his organisation was “like any other competition organiser” and “fully within our rights to set the parameters of our competitions whilst respecting the regulatory framework in place”.

The PFA points out that the 2024-25 season is set to roll almost without any stoppage into 2025-26.

The Premier League season will finish on May 25, with the Champions League final scheduled for May 31. There is then an international window between June 2 and 10, before the Club World Cup gets under way on June 14 and runs to July 13, by which time club pre-season programmes will be up and running before the Premier League starts again in mid-August.