A FIFPRO survey has shown professional footballers are clearly in favour of new regulations to address the increasing match congestion and travel burden at the top of the game.
The survey of 1,055 players and 92 performance experts shows both groups support new measures that would guarantee a minimum-length offseason break and limit repeated back-to-back games. Only 26 percent of players want to maintain international windows as they are. Meanwhile, 82 percent of the performance experts, half of whom have national team experience, said they have witnessed overload causing players mental health and lifestyle issues.
Speaking from a FIFPRO conference in Paris, PFA Chief Executive Maheta Molango said:
“Football is sleep-walking into a crisis on player welfare.
“The health and wellbeing of players’ is being jeopardised in the pursuit of commercial priorities and relentless competition cycles.”
“At the beginning of the season, I visited every Premier League dressing room to hear about the issues that matter to members. Scheduling and player workload was the stand-out concern for players, medical teams and managers across the board.
“Players instinctively want to be part of every game and every competition. But they have real concerns about their ability to maintain peak performance under current conditions.
“At present, we are simply playing too many games. Congested scheduling disrupts sleep, breaks training schedules and limits recovery. Over a sustained period, it results in more injuries and ultimately shortens careers.”
“Structured breaks are vital not just physically, but also mentally. Players have highlighted that breaks are needed to enable them to maintain focus on high-intensity competitions year-in-year-out. But, critically, breaks are also imperative to allow them sufficient time to be with family, children and loved ones.
“Change is essential on a human level. However, change is also a necessity on a commercial level. Football is currently the number one sport globally, but right now, the product is being put at risk.
“Without change, we risk offering up a sub-standard product and saturating the fans on the current trajectory.
“We need urgent intervention and want to see established minimum standards respected by all leagues and federations. This should include a ringfenced summer break enforced globally and protected breaks within the season.
“Football urgently needs to adopt a ‘player first’ approach to protect the long-term interests of the game.”
The 92 high-performance experts – including sports scientists, doctors and conditioning coaches - support the views of players that the current level of matches in elite football without protective regulations poses risks to mental and physical health. Many of today’s top players face far more intensive schedules than the last generation.