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How Does a Busy Match Schedule Affect Football?

How Does a Busy Match Schedule Affect Football?

Kai Iliev Kai Iliev

Football constantly evolves with new formats, competitions, and changes to existing tournaments, ensuring a football fan always has a match to watch. However, there are expressing concerns about this relentless schedule, and here is why.

An Abundance of Football Choices

There has never been a greater variety of matches for the football fan. The last five years have seen an increasing number of games throughout the season – much to the dismay of many players but to the delight of fans. 

New tournaments have been introduced, such as the Conference League, the younger sibling of the Europa League, which itself is the junior competition to the Champions League

This has undoubtedly been a success, as smaller teams now receive international exposure. More football can only be good…right?

Quality Over Quantity

Not quite. The saying “quality over quantity” has never been truer. Yes, there are more games, but no one except the fans truly wanted it. Player injuries have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the schedule has only intensified. 

Despite UEFA allowing more substitutions within a game – increasing it from three to five – the sheer number of matches remains overwhelming. Clubs of all sizes have faced injury crises. 

Managers like Ten Hag, Xavi Hernández, Carlo Ancelotti, and Pep Guardiola have all grappled with injuries in their squads and called for a reduction in the number of games. 

Instead, the number of matches has only increased, and the fixture list has grown more congested. So the question remains: why has this relentless schedule persisted?

Conflict of Interest

The industry demands more games. More games mean more tickets, higher attendance, and increased revenue. The answer is pessimistic, but it is a raw product of capitalism. FIFPRO, along with players and coaches, have repeatedly requested that the number of games not exceed fifty-five per season. 

Yet, UEFA is considering changing the format of the Champions League, potentially adding more games to the competition. 

A big facepalm for many – a sign of the culmination of FIFA’s egoism – was the poorly planned 2022 Qatar World Cup. The World Cup is traditionally played in summer – when all domestic competitions are over.

However, Qatar’s scorching summers, with temperatures reaching 40°C and above, made it impossible to host the tournament during this period. Consequently, FIFA moved the World Cup to mid-season, in December/January. What could go wrong? Absolutely everything. 

Domestic leagues were temporarily shut down as star players left their clubs to train with their national teams.

In many cases, players faked injuries to ensure their participation in the World Cup. However, the worst consequence was players playing back-to-back games without adequate rest. As a consequence, the number of injuries skyrocketed – to no one’s surprise. The aftermath was horrendous, and the culprit was glaringly obvious. It was a recipe for disaster, endangering the mental and physical health of many players.

The Danger of Too Many Games

An oversaturated schedule means that many games become forgettable. Expecting players to deliver peak performances with an ever-increasing number of games is unrealistic. 

The consensus among football fans on Twitter/X is that football has become less entertaining and more monotonous. While it is not outright boring, it feels plain and uninspired. This reveals that fans now take busy football schedules for granted – almost as if there are too many games to keep up with.

Although this is a first-world problem, it does not diminish the valid criticism that football institutions are not prioritizing what fans seek – entertainment. This is the primary purpose of football for 99% of the population. Fans are paying to be entertained, yet many find themselves disenchanted.

Injuries Tire Everyone

Reports of injuries are exhausting fans, and nobody can blame them for it. Everyone grew up with a favourite player and role model – seeing them injured is always a morale blow for days, weeks or even months.

In recent years, the amount of ACL injuries in football has only increased, and it’s no coincidence. The amount of overwork their muscles go through for the fans to watch their players is staggering. 

It goes against every moral sense of humanity, depriving players of their fitness. Many rely on excessive amounts of painkillers and, even worse, are rushed back to the field when rest is what they truly need. This, combined with the younger age of players, results in poorer football performance. 

Dribblers dribble less because they are afraid that one tackle could potentially end their career, especially if they already have suffered such injuries (i.e. Ansu Fati). Some never fully recover, becoming mere shadows of their former selves.

Football fans have never seen more reports of players remaining cautious, sometimes even sidelined, as more important tournaments (e.g. Champions League) are coming up. Where’s the fun in football if the game is marred by injury crises that no one enjoys watching – fans, coaches and players alike? 

While a utopia where football players are fully taken care of may not happen anytime soon – do they really need to be ruined within their first few years? All of this is because some greedy businessmen and leaders decided to schedule more competitions and games in the name of profit.

The True Impact

The impact of a busy schedule is glaringly obvious. Managers, fans and players are all concerned. Medical teams are now larger than ever due to the injury plagues that have afflicted the sport since the return of football after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It doesn’t have to be this way – footballers don’t need to become the modern gladiators to entertain the masses. They are humans, just like you and me, with families and personal lives, and many are younger than 25. 

The quality of football is declining, and so are the players’ bodies. As the number of games increases, everything seems lost – from the quality of play to the purpose of this excessive schedule.

Evolving environments often show that some evolutions require a counter-revolution. If complaints from FIFPRO, players, and coaches about the schedule don’t bring change, what will? This remains a pivotal question in the world of football, and worryingly, nobody seems to have the answer right now. 

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