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Football schedule is not just a health risk but is ‘killing the product’, says PFA

Football’s congested schedule is not just risking players’ health but it is “killing the product”, says Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango.

Football schedule is not just a health risk but is 'killing the product', says PFA
Football schedule is not just a health risk but is ‘killing the product’, says PFA

Several tournaments are expanding, which is increasing revenue streams.

But Molango says the game can learn from American football.

He added that Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne going off injured in club football’s biggest game is “surely not what we want to see”.

City lost De Bruyne to a hamstring injury early in last season’s Champions League final before edging a 1-0 win over Inter Milan in their 61st game of the season.

Speaking at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, Molango said: “The Champions League final is supposed to be our Super Bowl.

“It wasn’t because one of the best players in the world, De Bruyne, was out in the 30th minute; [Erling] Haaland was exhausted; Rodri, who is a top athlete, said after 60 minutes he had cramps.”

He added: “For us, we’ve reached a stage where it is not just about the health of the player, it is about us killing the product.”

Is the number of injuries increasing?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has this week spoken about his frustration at the lack of rest time for his players, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said his side need a “miracle” to remain competitive for the rest of the season because of their mounting injury list.

After three months of the current campaign, data analyst Ben Dinnery, founder of Premier Injuries, said there had been a 15% increase in the number of players injured, compared to previous campaigns.

However, Dinnery said season-by-season comparisons are difficult given that some recent campaigns have had winter breaks, shortened pre-seasons or a winter World Cup. He said the 455 total injuries in the Premier League up to gameweek 26 compares to 434 injuries by gameweek 23 last season.

Newcastle, who qualified for their first Champions League campaign since 2002-03, have suffered the most injuries this season with 29 across their squad, including three spells on the sidelines for Callum Wilson. They also have the highest number of days lost to injuries.

Last season the Magpies were the only team across Europe’s top five leagues that had nine outfield players feature in 75% of all league games.

However, with European football this season, their injury record per 1,000 minutes played (8.6) is actually better than Nottingham Forest (9.5) and Tottenham (10.2), who have no European football.

Manchester United and Liverpool, who have had well-documented injury issues throughout this season, also feature highly in the table.

There was debate at the start of this season about games regularly lasting more than 100 minutes because of an increase in added time to stop timewasting, and the impact of that on player welfare.

Next season the Champions League and Europa League group stage will each feature 36 clubs and increase from six-match rounds to eight, running into January, with a two-leg play-off to reach the last 16 for the clubs ranked nine to 24 in the overall table.

In addition, 12 European clubs will also participate in the 32-team Club World Cup in the United States in June and July 2025.

Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid have already qualified for that, with the current campaign’s Champions League winner joining them, plus eight more clubs decided on their coefficient, although there will be a limit on the number of clubs from individual leagues.

What can football learn from the NFL?

The World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 teams for the first time in 2026, the European Championship and Africa Cup of Nations have risen from 16 to 24 teams in recent years, and the Club World Cup will become a 32-team event starting from 2025.

Molango said the NFL’s huge media rights deal in the United States should serve as an example to football administrators that increasing the number of games is not always the best way to generate wealth.

The NFL, which only has a 17-game regular season, agreed the most lucrative TV rights package in sport in 2021 – an 11-year deal with domestic broadcasters worth $113bn (£86bn).

“I was talking to our colleagues at the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and they were telling me they play 17 games and make over $10bn (a season),” Molango added.

“Surely there is a value in scarcity and, right now, unfortunately decisions are taken without taking into consideration the players, who are the assets of this game.

“Secondly, they are missing out on a very interesting opinion on how to improve the quality on the pitch, so it’s a lose-lose situation.”


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