This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

International Duty in Football:  Five Facts about the FIFA Regulations
Nilo Effori
08 August 2014

International Duty in Football: Five Facts about the FIFA Regulations

International football is considered by national associations to be the pinnacle of the sport. With the World Cup over for another four years, it is interesting to consider how international call-ups work from a legal perspective.

Since 1 August 2014, new guidelines have been in force regarding the release of players to national teams. As a general rule, the team selection list - prepared by the coach of the national team - has to be drawn up in accordance with the rules set out in Annex 1 of the FIFA Regulation on Status and Transfer of Players (A1 RSTP). This article aims to explain the rules that apply to call-ups for international matches.


Once players are called to represent their national team, the club to which they are registered will be obliged to release them on the dates stipulated in the International Match Calendar (IMC)[1], as well as for the final competitions of the FIFA World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup and of the championships for 'A' representative teams of the confederations organised by FIFA. In such situations, no agreement between a player and their club can overwrite these obligations[2].

The new IMC will include 'international windows': a period of nine days which are reserved for international duty, starting on a Monday morning and ending on Tuesday night of the following week.

During any international window, a maximum of two matches may be played by each national team, irrespective of whether these matches are qualifying matches for an international tournament or friendlies. These matches can be scheduled any day from Wednesday during the international window, provided that a minimum of two full calendar days are left between matches

It is not compulsory to release players outside an international window or the final competitions. Furthermore, it is not compulsory to release the same player for more than one national team final competition per year.

Exceptions to this rule can only be established by the FIFA Executive Committee for the FIFA Confederations Cup.

For international windows, players must be released and start the travel to join their national team no later than Monday morning and must start the travel back to their club no later than the next Wednesday morning following the end of the international window.

For a final competition players must be released and start to travel to their national team no later than the Monday morning of the week preceding that of the start of the relevant final competition, and must be released by their association the morning of the day after their last match of the tournament.

FIFA also determines when the players will return to their clubs. For friendly matches, this is 24 hours after the match if the game took place in the same confederation in which the player is registered, or 48 hours in a different confederation. The date of the round trip will be communicated to the club by the national association ten days before the start of the release period.

If a player is late returning to his club, the FIFA Players' Status Committee states that next time the player is called up by his association, the period of release will be shortened by two days in the case of an international window and by five days for the final competition of an international tournament.

In cases of repeat offending, fines may be imposed on the player, time may be further reduced in releasing the player for competitions, and a ban on calling-up players for subsequent matches may be imposed.


Article 2 of the A1 RSTP states that clubs that release their players for national teams are not entitled to any compensation. This is based on the principle that the club benefits from the representation of their player in a national team in terms of increased transfer value, representing a positive financial impact for the club in the event of a future transfer of the player.

The clubs must also be responsible for the player's medical insurance during the entire period of release. FIFA only covers accidental injuries that happen off the pitch; as set out in the Technical Bulletin – Club Protection Program[3].

Nevertheless, the European Club Association - together with FIFA and UEFA – has reached an agreement that entitles the club to receive compensation for their players’ participation in international tournaments. However, the compensation UEFA and/or FIFA pay to clubs does not cover situations where a player is injured when representing his country.


In cases where a club does not release their player due to an injury, the association may, through its doctor, require an examination of the player. This examination may take place at the club where the player is registered to avoid impacting the recovery period[4].

FIFA states that in cases where the player does not want to or is unable to attend the call-up for reason other than injury, he is not allowed to play for his club during the release period, or for an additional five days after[5].

If a club refuses to release a player or neglects to do so for any reason, the FIFA Players’ Status Committee can request that the club's association declares any match(es) in which the player took part to be considered void and any points gained by the club forfeited. Any match contested according to the cup system can be regarded as having been won by the opposing team, irrespective of the score.


In general terms, the player must accept the call-up to represent his national team. However, if the player does not want to be called, they should notify their association in writing prior to the call. The letter must come from the player himself and should list their reasons for not wanting to play for the national team.

The national association must notify in writing any football player (and their club) registered abroad that they have been called for international duty at least 15 days prior to the match. In scenarios where this deadline is not met by the association, the releasing club is not obliged to release the player.

The releasing club has six days to respond and present any reasons for not releasing the player. Where the call is denied by the club, and the national association disagrees with the denial, it may require the help of FIFA to resolve the conflict. FIFA can only do so under the following two conditions[6]:

a) The association at which the player is registered has been asked to intervene without success

b) The case is submitted to FIFA at least five days before the day of the match for which the player is needed


As explained above, the FIFA Transfer Regulations only legislate for the mandatory release of players on the dates stipulated in the IMC[7], as well as for the final competitions of the FIFA World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup and of the championships for "A" representative teams of the confederations.

Some interesting disputes have occurred with regards the release of players for the Olympic Games. The special nature of an event does not in itself provide a valid legal basis to oblige a club to release its players - even the Olympic Games, as it is not listed in the IMC.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had to decide a case[8] for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where FC Schalke 04, FC Barcelona and SV Werder Bremen filed an appeal against the FIFA decision, which ordered the release of the players Márcio Rafael Ferreira de Souza (Rafinha), Diego Ribas da Cunha and Lionel Andrés Messi. This was based on a decision made by the FIFA Emergency Committee and circular 1153 of 23 July 2008, both stating the release of the players was mandatory.

Every year, the FIFA Executive Committee set out the IMC, and if the match is in the calendar, the clubs must release their players. However, the 2008 Olympics were not considered to be official matches by FIFA and therefore did not appear on the calendar and so clubs were not obliged to release their players. Only the FIFA Executive Committee had the power to change this, which they opted not to do on this occasion.

For the last Olympic Games in London 2012, and those to be played in Rio 2016, the FIFA Executive Committee has already decided that the release of the players be mandatory. This is in accordance with FIFA's regulations and there should be no challenges about the releases as a result. Where necessary, FIFA will, in line with the provisions of Annex 1 in the Players' Status Committee, refer the case to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.

It is interesting to note that, in the legal universe of FIFA, the release of a player for international duty carries with it a wide range of competing obligations and duties.


[1] The IMC is published for a period of four or eight years.
[2] Article 1, Annex 1, FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players
[4] Article 4, Annex 1, FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players
[5] Article 5, Annex 1, FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players
[6] Article 3, para 3 , Annex 1, FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players
[7] The IMC is published for the period of four or eight years.
[8] CAS 2008/A/1622, CAS 2008/A/1623, CAS 2008/A/1624