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FIFA Heat Policy Insufficient To Guarantee Player’s Health

Fri 6th Dec 2013 | Football Governance

FIFPro expects FIFA to take more appropriate and effective measures to guarantee the health and safety of the professional footballers who are participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, now that the world’s governing football body has refused to change the tournament’s time schedule.

FIFPro – the voice of all players worldwide – urges FIFA once again to consider the health and safety of the players during the 2014 World Cup as the number one priority.

It was only last week, that FIFA President Joseph Blatter announced – referring to ‘various complaints, letters and pleas’ he had received - that FIFA was to rethink the early mid-afternoon starts during the 2014 World Cup. Now, one week later, FIFA has stated to stick to the original time schedule, thus giving the players the impression that the world’s governing football body considers the demands of TV companies of greater importance than the health and safety of the players.

FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke did refer to the FIFA Executive Committee’s decision from its meeting in October that states, “Additional cooling breaks (after the 30th minute of the first and second halves of the game) will be granted if the Web Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) exceeds 32 degrees”.

FIFPro welcomes the fact that FIFA admits that measures need to be put in place to guarantee the players’ health, but the World Footballers’ Association is of the opinion that the aforementioned additional cooling breaks are insufficient. FIFPro advises FIFA to allow additional cooling breaks at a lower WBGT, namely from 27 degrees.

Guidelines from the highly-respected American College of Sports and Medicine, indicate that all continuous activity and competition activities must be cancelled at the WBGT level that exceeds 27 degrees. When FIFA decides to organise matches under these extreme conditions, then it should at least oblige itself to introduce additional cooling breaks at a WBGT level from 27 degrees.

FIFPro would like to remind FIFA that professional footballers are workers in the eyes of the law. Accordingly, football authorities, including FIFA, are legally obliged to provide a safe working environment and cannot neglect this obligation for any whatsoever business consideration.

The heat (a combination of air temperature, air humidity and sun exposure), especially during the matches played at 13:00 hours, 15:00 hours and 16:00 hours in host cities Manaus, Fortaleza, Natal, Cuiaba, Recife and Salvador, is a major concern for FIFPro. According to FIFPro, the players will be subjected to unreasonable health risks if no additional measures are taken by FIFA, while their performances might be significantly impaired.

Medical and scientific experts are clear that playing in extreme heat conditions is hazardous and requires sporting organisations to have strong and proactive policies that ensure players are not subject to any unreasonable risk to their health and safety.

In Brazil, the national football authorities do not organise any high-level matches at 13:00 hours in the northeast, midwest and southeast regions, to protect the players’ health. FIFA has scheduled 24 matches at 13:00 hours (as well as 2 matches at 15:00 hours and 11 matches at 16:00 hours).

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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