Premier League clubs could block players from competing at AFCON as dates cut through festive schedule

The Africa Cup of Nations could be missing a number of big name stars due to the tournament’s new dates.

The Confederation of African Football has confirmed the competition will begin on December 21 2025, four days before Christmas, and will conclude on January 18 2026.

CAF is on a collision course with FIFA, UEFA and European clubs

Morocco was due to host the event in the summer of 2025, but the tournament was moved, with FIFA’s scheduling of the 32-team Club World Cup part of the reason.

The new dates cut across the Premier League festive period and also just miss Champions League match days at either end of that time.

This will put AFCON in direct conflict with FIFA rules which state clubs only have to release their players for one “A” representative team final competition per year, with the World Cup also scheduled to be held in the summer of 2026.

That means Premier League clubs can block players going to one of the two tournaments.

CAF president Dr Patrice Motsepe stated planning the dates has been ‘complex’, but believed the chosen schedule was in the best interests of Africa’s stars.

He said: “The announcement of the dates took much longer than expected as there were complex and at times challenging discussions with various interested parties, in the light of the extensive international and domestic match calendars.

“CAF is committed to protecting and advancing the interests of African players, playing in football clubs in Europe and worldwide.

“CAF is also committed to building mutually beneficial relationships with the ECA (European Clubs Association), UEFA, other football confederations and FIFA.

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“We will continue to make significant progress in developing and ensuring that African football is globally competitive and amongst the best in the world.

“I am confident that Morocco 2025 will be extremely successful and will be the best AFCON in the history of this competition.”

The last AFCON took place from January 13 to February 11 this year, with the Ivory Coast beating Nigeria 2-1 in the final.