Fifa criticised for lack of mandatory rest periods in new women’s calendar

Fifa has announced a new four-year women’s international match calendar which will come in from 2026 but faces criticism for not including mandatory rest periods and undermining domestic leagues.

The new international match calendar, which the global governing body said has a “player-centric focus” and “is backed by extensive research, analysis and consultation” includes a welcome reduction in the number of international windows from six to five. These windows will be placed in February-March, April, May-June, October, and November-December, removing the heavily criticised July and September windows – the former falling well after domestic season’s have ended and the latter disrupting pre-season preparations, for those leagues operating across the winter.

The three types of windows that now exist, has been reduced to two types, with two nine-day type I windows held each year, including up to two matches, and three 12-day type II windows, including up to three matches. This change means that while there are fewer windows, there is no reduction in the number of matches played in Europe.

The Guardian understands that the players’ union, Fifpro, requested mandatory rest periods in the new calendar but this has not been included. The Fifa press release implies that the onus is on the confederations and the national leagues to decide rest periods for players while also announcing that there will be at least 10 weeks between major global tournaments and any subsequent international window. “This will ensure that confederations and leagues organising competitions have a clear opportunity to prioritise rest for players immediately following their international endeavours,” it said.

It is also understood that the Women’s Leagues Forum, a group of women’s professional leagues including the NWSL and Liga F, was not consulted on the calendar despite requests. It had written to Fifa prior to the ratification of the calendar questioning the impact on domestic competitions, saying the changes would inflict significant harm to the leagues and players. The group said there are fewer weekends available for league matches in the new calendar, which will impact broadcaster satisfaction, undermine commercial viability of the leagues, impact players through overloading and underloading and impact stadium availability.

The Fifa statement on the new types of window said it means “member associations will be empowered to shine a greater spotlight on their women’s national teams by planning and scheduling more international football on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when the best possible fan connection and commercialisation opportunities exist”. The governing body also announced the launch of a women’s Club World Cup, with 16 teams competing in the inaugural edition in January-February 2026. The tournament will be held every four years. The Fifa statement said that “further details will follow in due course”.

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Fifa has been approached for comment.

The Guardian

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