PREMIER LEAGUE clubs are threatening to boycott the Africa Cup of Nations – with the tournament on the brink of collapse.
AFCON is due to take place between January 9 and February 6 in Cameroon leaving the majority of the top flight without key stars for over a month.
But the current Covid-19 situation – including the recent spread of the Omicron variant – has left the competition in tatters, in danger of being postponed for a THIRD time.
The European Club Association has written to the Confederation of African Football and Fifa over their concerns for player safety following a recent board meeting.
They have also suggested teams could REFUSE to release their players if certain principles were not seen to be followed.
The letter read: “The pandemic and its associated implications raised three fundamental concerns for clubs when it comes to the release of players to national teams.
“First and foremost, the clubs’ duty to ensure each and every player’s wellbeing is properly protected. Second, that clubs are not forced to be without players for club competition matches.
“Third, that all players resume their activities with their clubs following national duty in a timely fashion, as per the applicable rules.”
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“The three principles referred to above must be strictly respected and, should this not be the case, that players not be released for national team duty.
“At present, these three principles are at risk of not being respected in connection with the upcoming January releases.
“For certain clubs expected to release players, including English and French clubs, domestic competition matches are due to take place up until early January and hence the overlap of the 2022 AFCON release dates (with call ups from 27th December) are unmanageable.
“With regards to applicable protocols, as far as we are aware, CAF has not yet made available a suitable medical and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament, in the absence of which clubs will not be able to release players for the tournament.”
PLAYERS IN QUARANTINE
This comes as new UK regulations state players returning from Cameroon would need to undergo an extended quarantine – despite recently removing 11 African countries from the red list.
CAF are in cancellation talks with compensation for Cameroon should the tournament not go ahead on the agenda.
But CAF have been insistent over the past few months that AFCON will go ahead as planned despite the pandemic.
CAF general secretary Veron Mosengo said: “There is a lot of work that is being done. We have to continue with the same momentum. We cannot rest. We have to work around the clock.”
There have even been talks of going ahead without European-based stars.
But with up to 40 African stars currently playing in the Prem, that would be a huge blow to the AFCON spectacle.
Considerations to move the competition away from Africa have also been dismissed.
AFCON was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, and was then moved to January 2021 before the pandemic forced it into a further one-year delay.
The Prem has already seen several league games called off over the festive period due to the Omicron outbreak with clubs struggling to cope with the spread.
And the prospect of further chaos with players returning from Africa is one the division wants to avoid.
News of a potential cancellation also comes as Sky Sports announced they would be showing all 52 AFCON games live.
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