Last April, Manchester city Coach Pep Guardiola raised the alarm, complaining that UEFA and FIFA were “killing” the players by scheduling too many games with insufficient recovery time. “No player can hold out, not only [the] Physicality, [but also the] Mentality of being ready to face opponents every day to win the game. “
Earlier this week Kevin De Bruyne, one of Guardiola’s players at City, said he countered with two analgesic injections Italy at Euro 2020 and that “if I had known beforehand what it would do with my ankle, I would not have played.” And last week FIFPRO, the international players union, has published its report on the players’ workload.
Unsurprisingly, many of the top players are heavily overworked. It’s not just about playing too many games; It is about too many minutes in the so-called “critical zone” – two stakes of at least 45 minutes on the field with less than five days break in between – when health is most important in the short and long term is likely to be affected. And of course there are other topics, from worldwide travel to breaks in the off-season, which are getting shorter and shorter for many.
Talk to top players, coaches, administrators or even Arsene Wenger – its two-year World Cup planhe says is based on playing less, but more meaningful, games – and it feels like most can, at least in public, agree on them.
It is a debate that has come to the fore because the International Match Calendar – the framework agreement that regulates when national and international football matches can be played – expires in 2024. It’s the year 2000 of football (if you’re old enough to remember it) and some sort of agreement needs to be made, but the problem here is that this is an extremely complicated subject that is only partially money and influence, and nobody wants to take a step back and play fewer games.
First of all, there is a striking imbalance in the number of games the teams themselves play in the same league. Crystal palace and Manchester City are both English clubs that play in the Premier League, but the former played 40 games (they weren’t in Europe and were knocked out early in national cups) while the latter played 61 – an increase of more than 50 percent – because they have reached the final of the Champions League and the League Cup as well as the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Would Palace like to have played more games? Secure. Maybe not 61 like City, but professional athletes in general enjoy playing sports (duh) and of course owners like the TV money, exposure, and home goals that gambling brings. One could imagine that Palace fans would have liked it too. It’s fun to watch your team play a competitive game at home, and only 19 times. (City fans have now done it 28 times.)
And this is Palace we are talking about. At the very least, they play in the Premier League, which means they can play against a range of coaches and styles, as well as against many of the world’s best players. The vast majority of teams in European leagues don’t understand this. They either only play domestically or, if they qualify for Europe, they usually play in pairs in the qualifying rounds. Therefore, the idea remains to reduce the number of clubs in Europe’s top leagues to 18 – of the Big Five leagues, only the Bundesliga has 18, the rest 20) as unpopular as anything but a topic of conversation. (It’s a bit like swapping your gas-guzzling SUV for a compact car.)
Yes, an 18-club Premier League or LaLiga structure would eliminate four games and provide more rest / recovery time. That would mean more meaningful (and less meaningless) games. While the TV deal could shrink a bit, in practice you’d lose games during the week that are generally less lucrative. That would be offset by the fact that you would distribute the income to fewer clubs. It would also give clubs more time to train and prepare, which could also lead to better games.
Obviously it would make a lot of sense, but nobody wants to be among those clubs that are losers so nothing is done in the end. Most players’ unions are also against it, because fewer top teams mean fewer jobs.
In fact, the direction of travel is reversed, at least in Europe. Just think about it the revised Champions League and its Swiss model which will add four games to each participating club’s calendar from 2024. After all, the easiest way to grow sales quickly is to simply get the biggest teams with the biggest stars to play more games.
But back to De Bruyne, Guardiola and everyone else who feels that top players are playing too many games and that this is detrimental to their wellbeing. How are you? Are you telling them to suck it up? “Oh, you like to live in your huge house with the three sports cars? Do you enjoy the generational wealth that you have accumulated and the fame that comes with it? Yes? it, so take care of it. “
It’s a tempting attitude to some, but hopefully we can be a little more enlightened. Nor can we just sit back and rely on sports science. Yes, despite legitimate complaints, ex-professionals now lead a better, healthier life than in the past and perform longer at a high level. Much of this is thanks to exercise science and medicine, but you can’t count on this to help you forever. Players who need pain medication to stay active or who don’t exercise properly during the season because they have to play games should be the exception, not the rule.
We need to be smarter and do better, and resetting the game calendar provides an opportunity to do so, with a number of solutions being explored.
The Belgian head coach explains how his side failed to reach the Nations League final after France returned two goals behind.
Just as air traffic controllers and truck drivers have limited hours worked, footballers may have a limit – perhaps on the amount of time they can spend in the “critical zone” or in the provision of “compulsory rest” on End of season. Reducing the number of teams (and therefore games) in competitions is also likely part of the solution, although as we’ve seen it’s difficult. But maybe there are other, better formats that can be explored.
International football is of course another aspect. His plan for a biennial World Cup has its weaknesses, but Wenger is right when he says that people want fewer games but more meaningful games. Useful for the players for development, for the fans for entertainment and, yes, for the member associations at the box office. Sometimes less is really more.
And then there is the elephant in the room. Clubs make money playing games and almost everything has to do with it, be it entry fees, television revenue, prize money, eyeballs that can be converted into sponsorship money, or branding that can move goods. Clubs need and want money, and when you find yourself in this situation, you can either cut costs or increase revenues, or ideally both.
Most leagues have some sort of cost control, even though they are close to a salary cap. However, there are other ways to limit the cost, e.g. B. tying a portion of a player’s salary to club revenue (effectively, by giving them equity unless it is called a bonus). And like I said, while the top players play a ton of games, the vast majority could probably play a few more games. Would they generate that much revenue? No, but they would generate some Revenue, and that too might be part of the answer.
What seems clear is that there are a lot of moving parts here. We need a holistic solution that not only allows the best players and teams in the world to play against each other around the clock.