The PFA has again highlighted the stark reality of football's unrelenting calendar on player health, particularly in the wake of the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Following the publication of the Men’s European Football Injury Index report for the 2022/23 season, PFA CEO Maheta Molango has expressed serious concerns about the growing demands placed on players.
- Increased recovery time post-World Cup: Players in Europe's top leagues needed an average of eight more days to recover from injuries after participating in the Qatar 2022 World Cup, highlighting the toll of international tournaments on player health.
- Spike in injury severity and costs: Injuries sustained post-World Cup led to nearly double the average recovery time (from 11.35 to 19.41 days), with the cost of injuries in top leagues soaring by nearly 30% to over €700 million.
- Player welfare under scrutiny: The Qatar 2022 World Cup's impact – with more severe injuries and higher costs – raises urgent questions about player welfare amidst an increasingly crowded football calendar.
Molango said: "The latest injury report following the Qatar World Cup is another wake-up call. It shows the reality of football's unrelenting calendar on player health. The continued expansion of the competition calendar, both at club and international levels, is pushing players beyond their limits.
“Decisions to press ahead with what seems certain to be another winter World Cup in Saudi Arabia without fully assessing the fallout from Qatar 2022 are alarming. This non-stop escalation is unsustainable. Players are literally at breaking point."
As the players' union, the PFA has been vocal in advocating for improved player welfare, emphasising the need for a reset of the football calendar to protect players.
"We are seeing shortened player careers, financial losses in the hundreds of millions for clubs, and a risk to long-term fan engagement." Molango continued, "We're facing a lose-lose-lose situation, and it's time to hit the brakes. At the PFA, we will continue to pursue a collective strategy. There needs to be greater coordination around the organisation of the global fixture calendar. As it stands, the game risks running the players ragged."
The injury report itself presents concerning figures. International players who took part in the World Cup were sidelined for an average of eight days longer due to injuries in the months following the tournament.
The injury cost rose by almost 30% across Europe's top five men's leagues, from €553.62 million to €704.89 million. Injuries sustained post-World Cup led to nearly double the average recovery time, from 11.35 to 19.41 days.
The PFA's view has been clear and consistent that player welfare must be the cornerstone of any future decisions regarding the football calendar. In talks with stakeholders, it has been reiterated that there needs to be an urgent review and restructuring to ensure that the health and wellbeing of players are not compromised in the relentless pursuit of commercial gains.
Ultimately, football's long-term success depends on its most vital asset – the players.