Would Less Football Improve Football?

Would Less Football Improve Football?


Son Heung-Min played 78 games of football
between 25th May 2018 and 13th June 2019. He benfitted from just 22 days of rest during
the summer, 6 less than the minimum (28-42) recommended by medical professionals. And as a Premier League player, he missed
out on a winter break, for which the recommendation is 14 days of uninterrupted rest. The number of fixtures combined with the intensity
of the modern game has led to the suggestion that the workload of players like Son is unsustainable
and unsafe. One organisation making this claim is players’
union FIFPRO in a recent report it published entitled ‘At The Limit’. The report makes the case in various ways. The pronounced issues, though, are that – firstly
– in extreme cases, elite players participate in almost 80 games per year. That, secondly, players feature in many of
these games without 5 or more days rest and recovery beforehand, and this happens regularly
throughout the season. And finally, that the increasing fragmentation
of the football calendar is exacerbating those problems, as various competing interests continue
to re-structure the sport’s global shape. Short-term, this leads to players playing
a larger number of games in a shorter space of time, but long-term, the clustering of
separate competitions and the resulting reduction of off-season recovery periods leads to “continuous
competition cycles”, in which a player may feel physically and psychologically that there
is no end or beginning to any given season. But, how do we know how many games is too
many? After all, Son’s 78 game season (of which
72% were played without 5 or more days rest and recovery) doesn’t sound hugely different
to John Robertson’s 70-game season for Nottingham Forest and Scotland in the 1978-79 season. Go back even earlier to football in wartime
Britain, and you’ll hear stories of players featuring in over one hundred games a year. The key is not in the number of games alone,
but in the intensity of modern football. The increasing complexity of tactical systems
has ensured the continual evolution of the sport. As athletic performances have improved, the
game itself has become more fatigue-inducing. As Ken Early wrote in an article for the Irish
Times: “The rise of system football means that the English league today has less broken
play, and more periods of controlled possession.” Early goes on to note that in the last 10
years not only has the number of passes increased by 25%, but the number of tackles and interceptions
has significantly reduced. “The team that made the fewest tackles 10
years ago tackled more than the team that makes the most tackles today.” Fewer breaks in play clearly leads to a more
intense playing experience, which has both physical and psychological effects. So, for Son Heung-Min, 78 games is arguably
a much weightier burden than a similar number of games of the football played decades earlier. Perhaps more concerning long-term is the “continuous
competition cycles”, created as a result of competing governing bodies and the financial
imperatives of the modern game. Pre-season tours are emphasised for commercial
reasons, leading to higher intensity games and greater distances of travel. FIFA are not only seeking to expand the World
Cup but revamp the Club World Cup with greater financial backing. UEFA has expanded its European Championships
from 16 teams to 24 and is holding the 2020 tournament finals over 12 different cities
in 12 countries. The impact of these and other expansions and
additions floods the calendar with fixtures, all duelling for prominence. And the problem is not at its worst in Europe. In an article for the New York Times, Rory
Smith wrote regarding the burnout of South American players specifically, due to CONMEBOL’s
decision to hold four Copa America’s in six years to realign the tournament with the
European Championships. Smith writes “Between 2014 and 2020, should
Chile qualify for the Qatar World Cup, it is possible that [Alexis] Sanchez will have
had just one full summer break.” Even that summer break, Smith notes, wasn’t
planned, Chile simply failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. Had they participated, Sanchez would’ve
undoubtedly added to the 130 appearances he’d already made for Chile at just 30-years-old. It’s perhaps no surprise that his form is
desperately poor at Manchester United. FIFPRO’s report also states that elite non-European
players are travelling too much, frequently crossing time zones and not getting the recommended
rest and recovery time. “63% of players say that long-haul travel
impacts their performance.” For players featuring both at club and international
level, the travelling time can be significant. Son flew 110,596km last season. That’s nearly a third of the way to the
moon, and the equivalent of taking the world’s longest commercial flight (Newark to Singapore
– 15,344km) just over seven times. Or 135 hours flying time; five and a half
days in the air. The frequent crossing of time zones can also
be problematic for footballers, who rarely have the time to recover from jetlag. Interrupted or inadequate sleep can lead to
lower reaction time, poorer accuracy, poorer decision making, and crucially it can increase
the likelihood of injuries. A study – by the American Academy of Sleep
Medicine – of 80 Major League Baseball players even showed that lack of sleep can reduce
the length of a player’s career. And whilst there are clear physical consequences
to overplaying an under-recovered footballer, such as the increased risk of injuries, the
psychological consequences should not be underplayed. Speaking about ‘burnout’ to the Guardian
in 2014, Dr Andrew Hill – (University of Leeds’ School of Biomedical Sciences) said:
“There is often confusion when people talk about overtraining, too many games or fixture
congestions; what they are talking about is physiological fatigue, but burnout is normally
about psychological exhaustion. They are correlated. For every match he plays there is going to
be a psychological expenditure, associated with preparing for games and competing in
games.” So, how could this be changed? Well, the FIFPRO report makes a few recommendations. It includes locking in season breaks, limiting
back-to-back games and considering match caps. 85% of players surveyed by FIFPRO are in favour
of an in-season 14-day break. 64% of players said they “believed they
had insufficient rest between games.” And the evidence suggests that “A very short
period of recovery between matches – less than 72 hours – for players is associated
with more matches lost for their teams”. Limiting the amount of games that individuals
play could, therefore, lead to an improvement in the game. A fully rested player is more efficient and
is capable of higher performance levels. Plus, limits on player use would inevitably
lead to greater use of a team’s whole squad; potentially more minutes for academy graduates
and youth players, something many fans want to see. Either way, it might be necessary. As Jurgen Klopp said in a press conference
in May 2019: “IF WE DON’T LEARN TO DEAL WITH OUR PLAYERS IN A BETTER WAY, COMPETITION
WISE… WE KILL THE WONDERFUL GAME. WITHOUT THE PLAYER, THE GAME IS NOT A GOOD
ONE.” However, as a result of the way that football
is structured, FIFPRO says that this problem requires a “holistic solution”, as no
single organisation can make the necessary changes alone. The task is in convincing competing interests
to holster expansion plans. And that won’t be easily achieved.

100 Replies to “Would Less Football Improve Football?”

  1. Premier League teams should pull out of the Football League Cup. They already compete in the FA Cup. They should start with that.

  2. That is this season think about last season where some players need to play the world cup as well. Also the nations league too.Son is this tired already imagine players like vvd kane and more

  3. Regardless of the physical aspect in normal life the mental aspects of life for other jobs impact more as in the day to day of the average worker you need the money, when your paid regardless of being asked to is not an issue for most Premier League footballers. Taking home 100k per week and not playing is not the same as doing a normal job earning minimum wage and not being paid if you are not being given the hours to work.

  4. A small but worthwhile plan will be to remove replays in cup games in Scotland and England. Not necessary and there are plenty of them each season. Championship teams have 46 games in the league. Whilst they don't have Europe, its still a lot of meaningful games. So to add cup games that drag onto replays. Not worth while. Reduces a potential couple of games each year for teams. Whilst not major. It could the the difference in a season. With a team actually getting a full weeks rest in the busy New Year period.

    League Cup Semi finals could be one single game too. Again nothing major. But to reduce the total games a fraction its all good. I know everyone wants more games to make more money, so the only real way is to remove any potential dead weight games.

    Also. From a fan point of view. It's annoying, going game after game at the weekend and then suddenly having to go on a Monday night. Honestly think league matches at the weekend should be Saturday and Sunday (maybe Friday too) only, so that the games are finished at a suitable time with plenty of rest and relax time afterwards. Can't be helped midweek really..

    Winter break would actually be easy to do. Scotland and England have VERY similar fixture lists all round, yet only a year or so back, Scotland added in a winter break and pulled the league cup back a fraction, so that it was finished before the turn of the year.

  5. Compared to England, the Bundesliga has only 18 teams, a winter break, and only one domestic cup. It’s far fewer games, and it would be interesting to see player fatigue in Germany compared to player fatigue in England

  6. Keep

    38 League Games
    Fa Cup
    League Cup
    Champions League / Europa
    World Cup
    European Champs

    Get rid of

    Community Shield
    Club World Cup
    Nations League

  7. Son Heung Min also gets paid 400 thousand pounds a month it's worth saying

    Get rid of the Carabao Cup (League Cup) – No one cares about that

    Get rid of the Europa League, no cares about that either

    Scrap pre season tours abroad

    Remodel the Champions League, fewer teams as so many of them are their just to make up the numbers & end up prolonging the competition & scrap the group stage

    Winter break

    Fewer mid week games

    Done

  8. Do away with the Europa league and there should be 3 major tournaments for each country the league domestic cup and the continental cup (then the fifa club World Cup)

  9. Why not just increase the allowed squad size & rotation rules for clubs? We get to see more players, the clubs and players get to enjoy the increased revenues from more games.

  10. People are always overexaggerating the rigors of Son's schedule. He had almost 2 months rest after the WC before he played in the PL. South Korea got knocked out in the first round.

  11. Simple solution is to have more viable squad players, which is why Man C squad depth makes them unbreakable.

  12. What about all the people that work 5 days a week for 8hrs a day… oh and don’t get paid thousands every week. Excuses need to stop – do your jobs like the rest if us do

  13. This problem could be reduced giving reserve and youth players opportunities during the new tournaments

  14. Mourinho talked about time out and substitution like basketball for football matched, seems like it would improve football more

  15. The only solutions I could think of sound kinda radical, but i'd be open to them. This is if we continue to play the same amount of football or expand on it.
    Expand roster sizes (has to be accompanied by a salary cap in my opinion), Bump the number of subs usable in a match to 4 or 5.
    Even more drastic would be basketball type subs and full use of the bench but this might push games to being 3 hours.

  16. I mean this is the reasoning behind capitalism, they work the footballers to the bone, to make as much money as possible

  17. What if we cut league play in half and only played from august to December and held all tournaments excluding pre season and international play, in January thru may

  18. Get rid of the Europa League and the Carabao cup. No point to them, and they're just boring for the most part.

  19. Rather than demanding for Smaller cups to leave, how about let your YOUNG PLAYERS play?

    Isn’t that why you sign them?

  20. I can already see the response to this from your average fan: ‘well they get payed enough. I work every day and I only get minimum wage, they get 10s of thousands a week and they’re complaining they’re tired?’

    In principle, yeah. You get payed ludicrous money you should work ludicrously hard. However this isn’t about that. It’s about the quality of the game, and about psychological and physiological science.

    It doesn’t matter how much money they throw at them, that will not stop burnout, physical or mental. If we, the fans, want a better game: this has to change. Plain and simple.

  21. The only way to solve the he problem of this issue and not just cure the symptoms is to abolish free market capitalism

  22. No, we just need more players. Instead of one team winning everything. There’s more opportunity for clubs who want to target different cups.

  23. I’d recommend capping playing time on players or at least restraining them in some way. So rather than reducing the number of games, managers have to be more decisive in who they play. There are way more footballers than top flight games, so it gives a chance for those who aren’t 1st selection.

  24. Son played 78 matches in a span of almost 13 months…..I think this shouldn't be treated as a big issue…..in the NBA the regular season (late October to early April next year—-less than six months) has 82 games….players play almost every other day when they're at home…like football, basketball is also a contact and very physically demanding sport….NBA players also travel a lot around the US and also to other countries…..tennis players also travel a lot…..and even spend more time on court…….

  25. They should streamline the cups because there's too many mid week games that are A) hard for away fans to attend and B) either burning first team players out or just having poorer quality bench players playing. It makes it easier for big clubs with deeper squad quality and depth to win cups.

  26. Could you make a video or a comment on the new football rule changes? Notably the subs having to go off at the nearest byline and keepers being able to pass to a receiver who's stood inside the box?
    I felt really confused last week seeing it happen live and kept saying "that's a foul"

  27. I've discussed this with a few people and I often get the "Well the are professionals they should do their job!" argument. I think its important for us to recognize the limitations of the human body and the strain that playing football for 90 min a week (if not more) + training time would have.

    Would allowing for more subs be a viable strategy?

  28. Hi Tifo, could you please do a video on teams owned by corporations in the Bundesliga such as Bayer AG and Gazprom with Schalke?

  29. European Clubs need to stop going to asia and north america during pre season, I know they get a lot of money but players don’t rest.

  30. If ur in team that gets kicked out of the first round in all the cups or you're not specially talented you're not gonna play that much. The financial insentive means they wont slow down on the amount of games and we know want play every single game. They might just want the games to be a little more spaced out.

  31. Match caps are a bad idea. Just stop diluting the game with all those stupid Nations Leagues, Nations Cups, International Champions Cups, Emirate Cups, Prerounds for the Europa League, Carabao Cup, etc. All the stupid games nobody even cares about should be gotten rid of. Otherwise football will end up like baseball.

  32. get rid of tiny cups, just have the FA Cup, Champions and Europa League and Premier League

    add a rule for how many players of a teams squad have to make appearances during the regular season so theres more forced rotation

    winter break necessary, summer break extended

    get rid of most of these useless international friendlies, or at least have all non-starters playing in them

    give players more time away from football after they are packed with games or flying far distances

    take away a limit on how big a bench can be, change to maybe 4-5 subs per match?

  33. Compared to Pro Basketball players, soccer player get no rest. there should be a match cap and club's should play more of thier whole squad

  34. Big advocate for a reduction in games. The approach should be quality, not quantity. Six Copa Americas in 4 years is ridiculous. Domestic leagues should be capped at 16 teams, making them more competitive with more meaningful games, therefore raising the appeal of the product. People will talk about TV revenue from more games, but games like Man City thrashing Huddersfield is not what broadcasters are selling their brand on. And League cups? What's the point? The UCL and EL preliminaries can also do with some simplification to avoid some teams having to start their season super early. This endless pursuit of the (already stratospherically rich) elite clubs for increased revenue is killing the game. It turns my stomach that they keep crying that they can't make even more money that what they already have, meanwhile mid to lower level clubs struggle financially across Europe.

  35. I think this in part is what led to the apparent mental breakdown almost every single Real Madrid player since they clinched their 3rd consecutive CL trophy.

  36. Alexis Sanchez have no summer break but he rarely play for his club. He have almost all season Break except summer. Burn out ? Maybe Man Utd Break bank.

  37. Let's start with stop giving teams who finish third & fourth in the EPL and other European countries places in the champions league! Teams who finish third aren't champions they are losers clubs like my own with great European pedigree when it comes to winning trophies. 4 qualifiers we've had to play for winning our fucking league

  38. They should just boycott the useless stupid friendlies in random countries. Football is globalized enough with TV and Internet.

  39. The only thing that needs to change are stupid international fixtures in the middle of a season. Bring them all together at the end. Besides that, more games emphasize bigger squads and more chances to young players. UEFA is creating a third competition because smaller clubs asked for it. In modern football you need games to develop your players and rise their value. With 40 games a season we would see the same eleven all the time. That's the German mistake. Fewer games have not improved their performance at all. The injuries are even more because it's like having two pre-seasons, and they even arrange pointless friendlies. Do you really want that for England?

  40. I watch you all on mobile and this video sounds very bad with sounds behind the voice. This happened on any speakers I used

  41. just kill domestic leagues and put the best teams in 4 leagues like UEFA Nations League lol. It is a great idea that will never fail(communism is not good).

  42. I'm not sure why increasing the number of substitutions wasn't mentioned. Going from 3 to 5 would allow more squad players to get minutes and allow players coming back from injury more chances to ease back into competitive football.

  43. Yea the world cup and international comps really can add to a players miles…be nice if they did without international friendlies imo. Just a waste of time since players are just jogging it out to jog it out.

  44. How about mentioning the ball is only in play for 60 minute or less in today's game too. They get paid millions and their career is short

  45. You can look at cup competitions like the Carabao/League Cup or the Club World Cup (Or whatever it's called) that really accelerates fatigue with midweek fixtures

  46. Completely agree with this, luckily we have now implemented a winter break starting this season. I wouldnt mind if they got rid of the carabao cup. The FA cup and the PL are more than enough, add to that either EL or CL for only the top 6. that would leave only 2 competitions for 7 and below which is more than enough because they dont have the depth for more. and 3 comps for the top 6.

    maybe an increase in amount of substitutions allowed per match would be something to discuss, maybe instead of 3 make it 5.

  47. Some options: make carbao cup a competition for only league 1 and 2 or maybe even the championship. OR make the competiton restricted or game restricted so either only u24 can play or players who played more than enough games can't participate

  48. Maybe the FA should consider deleting the EFL Cup and have a 14 day winter break in Jan or Feb

  49. I feel like money is the issue here (greed). More tournaments mean more money in circulation for football. Am I correct in thinking this?

  50. I could imagine players inserting annual match caps in their contracts. That seems like an efficient solution. Plus it would justify a reduction in the astronomical salaries they're paid.

  51. awww poor footballers making millions a month.. it must be hard to run around for 90 minutes every week.. where can i donate to help??

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