Seven reasons the football calendar will not be reduced

Tuesday, August 20 2019

 

The topic of players playing too many matches is never far from the surface in this country, without any real consensus. The latest attempt to drag it up onto the bank and into daylight is by FIFPro with their damning ‘At The Limit’ report.

You might not have heard of FIFPro, but they’ve been looking out for players’ since the 1960s. Backing freedom of contract issues, pushing through the Bosman ruling and they currently control the image rights of players (you can check on the loading screen next time you play FIFA 19).

 

FIFPro at the limit of reality

 

Not sure they entirely live up to their own ‘voice of professional footballers’ billing – I was one for 12 years and only found out about them last week – but they are good eggs.

 

Their ‘At The Limit’ report is exhaustive, comes from a good place and makes sound recommendations (check the previous blog post for a breakdown). But that’s the end of the platitudes, people…

 

Because the seven suggestions for ‘What the Football Industry can do to put Player Health and Performance First’ are a nonsense. 

 

Two clumsily matched phrases leap out if that sentence, like a salmon at the far post. ‘Football industry’ and ‘player health’. Because neither has anything to do with the other.

 

Football is like any other industry. It’s a machine. Churning out a product for the paying public.

 

The greatest show on turf

 

Players are conveyer-belted in one end, and matches pumped out the other. Yes, a few limbs might get snagged on the cogs in between but look at the TV revenue!  

 

While football’s stock continues to grow, it’s all about ‘MORE’ not less. And something as trivial as player health is not going to slow down production.

 

Here are FIFPro’s seven recommendations and seven reasons why they won’t work:

 

Lock-In Season Breaks

Minimum breaks of four weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter would leave just six spare weekends to fit in all domestic cup ties and International matches, including tournaments. So no World Cup, no Euros, no Copa America… unless domestic leagues condense the season by playing more midweek matches. Which brings us onto…

 

Limit Back-to-Back Games

It’s suggested that five days is required between matches for players to perform at their best. Hmm. A couple of things… Firstly, do you really think that TV companies worry about players – given that they are funding their obscene wages – ‘performing at their best’ when they are flogging advertising? Second, do think any club is going to leave a player out of a big match because he is a bit puffed out? And thirdly, do you think any player is going to be honest about being a bit puffed out when there is appearance money up for grabs?  

 

Consider Match Caps

Limiting the number of matches players can play, limits their value to clubs and the wages they can earn; it compromises a manager’s team selection and makes a mockery of form; it will dilute the quality of competition and recreate the three-foreigner Champions League rule. Which was rubbish and everyone hated.

 

Change the Playing Calendar

This recommendation actually supports the idea of more matches. With bigger squads and more player rotation. This will run League One and Two into the ground and further disenfranchise the terraces – neither of which the big-hitting TV networks, or FIFA and UEFA execs will give a monkey’s about, by the way.

 

More Rest for Long-haul Travel

Two words: appearance money. Players will not miss the big matches. Whether it means quitting international football or arranging to be helicoptered off the pitch to the next game the moment the final whistle goes.  

 

Develop an Early Warning System

Say what now? I think FIFPro began to struggle at this point because nothing practical is suggested as to what this system might be. Hang on… I’ve got it! How about a physio. Perhaps a whole medical team to look after players’ fitness. And then maybe a manager to, I dunno, talk to the player to ask him how he is doing…? No…?

 

No Additional Games Until Safeguards are in Place

They were definitely struggling at this point – calling for no more domestic or international fixtures to be added to the calendar until ‘enforceable mechanisms’ to protect players can be put in place. When you start throwing in management-speak like that, you know you’re running on empty.

 

Dear FIFPro,

 

Can I suggest a cap on far-reaching reports on matters you don’t know enough about and haven’t really thought through. And a mandatory rest period between back-to-back reports – to maintain performance levels. 

 

Perhaps an extra 48 hours break when returning from a long, hard schmoozing trip too. All those dinners and gentleman’s clubs can lead to burnout. And finally, no more reports until some enforceable mechanisms can be put in place to protect FIFPro execs.

 

Yours,

Matt Nesbitt.  

 

Matt Nesbitt swapped his short unspectacular career in the English lower divisions for a much more successful one as a football tipster. He now has a proper job.


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The Late Fitness Test podcast

Monday, August 19 2019

 

Episode Three. Shoot the Defence 'Late Fitness Test' podcast. Ben Dinnery, Johnny Wilson and Stel Stylianou return to discuss a host of injury-related topics. This weeks' highlights include:

  • Kieran Tierney and 'that' club-record vertical jump test and why his results may indicate a return-to-play (RTP) sooner than the club suggests in mid-October. 
  • Bayern Munich could still move for Leroy Sane during the European summer transfer window despite the winger being sidelined for at least six months. Johnny explains why a deal may yet be done.
  • Following on from the FIFpro 'At the Limit' report which came out earlier this month. The footballers union flagged Alisson Becker as one of those players most at risk of suffering a fatigue-related injury having played 72 competitive fixtures and travelled over 80k kilometers in the previous 12 months. And, after playing in every Premier League minute in his first season at Liverpool, the goalkeeper picked up quite a severe-looking muscle injury on the opening day. With supporters fearing the worst, we discuss the nature of the injury and why seeing Alisson in a short-leg walking boot, may not necessarily be a bad thing. 
  • And, finally, Jack Wilshere, and his decision, with West Ham's blessing, to bring in an external person to help maximise his opportunities on the pitch.  

Have a listen, we would love to hear your thoughts!

🎙️ Audioboom https://audioboom.com/posts/7343484-the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-3

🎧 Spotify https://open.spotify.com/episode/5b1iOoPuJJhjjSxFhj8wF6

🍏 Apple https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/shoot-the-defence/id633108165


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FIFPro Insist the Football Calendar is harming Elite Footballers

Monday, August 12 2019

 

It only seems five minutes since Liverpool were lifting the Champions League and we’re off and running again. But are footballers becoming overplayed prima donnas?

Yes, I know we’re only a week into the new season, but we’ve already heard complaints about the season being too long.

Jurgen was complaining about having to play too many matches before the Community Shield. One of seven ‘trophies’ in Liverpool’s crosshairs this season. Now down to six.

‘Someone has to look after the players’ Jurgen Klopp, ahead of the Community Shield

And he’s not alone. His views were this week endorsed by FIFPro. No, me neither. But apparently, they are the ‘voice of the world’s professional footballers.’

Anyway, they’ve knocked up a damning report on the plight of the modern elite footballer.

 ‘At The Limit is an exhaustive study based on the workload of 500 elite level players over a 12 month period.

The data revealed that (among other things):

  • Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son played 78 matches and travelled more than 110,000km
  • Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker played 72 games and covered 80,000km, with no midseason break.
  • Almost 75% of Ivan Rakitic’s 68 matches in Barcelona and Croatia’s engine room were played without the five-day break recommended for injury avoidance.
  • And Sadio Mane’s 70 matches for Liverpool and Senegal took him over 100,000km, again without the benefit of a midseason breather.

The upshot being, players, play too much. And don’t rest enough.

 

What the voice of professional football neglects to mention…

The report makes a series of recommendations - to it has to be said, no-one in particular - including:

  • A mandatory four-week break in the summer and two-week break in the winter
  • Limits on the number of times a player can play back-to-back matches inside five days
  • Annual match caps for players

Something the report doesn’t include – despite being the ‘voice of the world’s professional footballers’ – is the views of any footballers.

I’d be intrigued to hear Heung-Min Son’s pleas to be left out of the Champions League Final because he was a bit puffed out…

Or Alisson stalling on his £67 million transfer to Liverpool because the wife had already paid the deposit on their caravan holiday in Morecombe…

And how Ivan Rakitic

is hoodwinked into running out in front of 100,000 adoring fans in Camp Nou’s cathedral of football, just a few short days after a Champions League tie at Wembley or the San Siro.    

There is no appetite for less football

You might think I’m taking the mickey. But FIFPro are giving it away!

Come on. A four-week break every summer? Er, World Cup anybody? No? European Championships ring a bell…?

Restricting back to back matches? Two words: appearance money.

Annual match caps? What’s this - VAR for appearances…?

No midweek break adds up to a full season of injury

One telling stat that came out of the report was that elite teams that DON’T have a mid-season break lose an average of 300-player days more per season to injury than those that do. That’s ten months. A full domestic season.

But football is all about more. More matches, more tournaments, more tickets, more subscriptions.

I’m sure FIFPro have good intentions, as does Jurgen Klopp, when he says that someone has to look after the players. But it won’t be anybody making money from football who takes the job.

Not FIFA, UEFA or the leagues currently selling players’ souls – or at least renting them for TV. Not the clubs. And not the players either.

Money talks. But football money shouts, chants and sings

UEFA cited player burnout when they scrapped meaningless international friendlies. Then replaced it with the meaningless Nations League.

Clubs respond to more matches with bigger squads. And players lap up the bigger contracts.

In a game where money talks as much and as loudly as it does in football, FIFPro’s self-proclaimed ‘voice of the world’s players’ is destined to be drowned out.

Matt Nesbitt swapped his short unspectacular career in the English lower divisions for a much more successful one as a football tipster. He now has a proper job.


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Who the hell is Matt Nesbitt?

Punter. Tipster. Collector. Of winnings.

Meet the good boy behind Badman Betting...

World Cup 2010 Prediction Panel with Ruud Gullit and Sky’s Charlotte Jackson

World Cup 2010 Prediction Panel with Ruud Gullit and Sky’s Charlotte Jackson

The planned football career that would allow Matt to spend every afternoon in the bookies was cut mercifully short. So he was able to spend his mornings there too.

But rather than spunk his (sweet) FA pension on a day-tripper to Palookaville, Matt played smart. He watched, he listened. Learned his trade and earned a reputation.

But the bookies don’t like a winner...

First they closed his accounts. Then they tried legal action to shut down his tipping services. Now they employ him.

Matt has been providing winning football advice since 1998. And whether it has been via post, premium rate phone line, email, TV or Twitter – he has always made punters money.

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