UEFA has said there is nothing wrong with awarding an event to Belarus ©Getty Images

UEFA has defended its decision to award one of its events to Belarus amid criticism from the global players union.

European football's governing body has bucked the recent trend of moving major sports events out of the country amid the Government crackdown on protestors, including athletes, who have demonstrated against controversial President Alexander Lukashenko.

UEFA recently announced Belarus would stage the Women’s Under-19 European Championship in 2025 after it missed out on hosting the same event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belarus had also been set to hold the Futsal Champions League Finals before UEFA moved the event from Minsk to Zadar in Croatia after citing coronavirus concerns.

Both decisions had appeared to save UEFA from criticism for staging a showpiece event in a country where numerous abuses of human rights - including the unlawful detention of athletes peacefully protesting against the regime - are alleged to have taken place.

But FIFPro said it "strongly disagreed" with UEFA's call, claiming it was "concerned about player safety as well as specific reports on violence against women in the country".

"FIFPRO is deeply concerned about the treatment of athletes in Belarus who are being targeted by authorities in a serious breach of human rights," FIFPro said in a statement.

"Because of their support for pro-democratic movements, leaders of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund (BSSF) are among those to have faced a vicious backlash from authorities.

"We understand the Belarussian Professional Footballers Association has faced difficulties in becoming a registered entity and some players are afraid of joining their union because of intimidation against members of the BSSF.

"We will vigorously defend the rights of professional footballers, and other athletes, to enjoy the freedom of speech and the freedom of association.

"Like our colleagues at the World Players Association, we call on international sports stakeholders including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIFA and UEFA to exert their considerable influence to help protect athletes."

Belarus was due to host the women's under-19 event this year before it was called off due to COVID-19 ©Getty Images
Belarus was due to host the women's under-19 event this year before it was called off due to COVID-19 ©Getty Images

A spokesperson for UEFA suggested there was no issue with awarding a tournament to Belarus as it will not stage the Women’s Under-19 European Championship for another four years and made up for the country being unable to host other events.

"In 2020/21, the Belarus Football Federation should have hosted the UEFA Congress, the Women’s Under-19 European Championship and the final tournament of the UEFA Futsal Champions League," the spokesperson said.

"None of these events actually took place in Belarus.

"The UEFA Executive Committee thus eventually decided to award the organisation of the Women’s Under-19 European Championship to the Belarus Football Federation, but only in 2025, that is in four years’ time."

Belarus has been stripped of events including this year's Men's Ice Hockey World Championship and the World Modern Pentathlon Championships, both of which were scheduled to take place in Minsk, because of the violent Government crackdown.

There have also been calls for the European Track Cycling Championships next month to be moved from the Belarusian capital.

Officials from Belarus, including Lukashenko, are banned from attending the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The IOC sanctions also "requested all constituents of the Olympic Movement to respect these measures in the interest of protecting Belarusian athletes’ rights and the reputation of the Olympic Movement" - seen by many as the organisation telling Federations not to award events to the nation.