Liverpool are one of many clubs hampered by an injury crisis this season (Glyn KIRK)
Football’s congested schedule is not just a health risk to players but is damaging the quality and value of the product, according to Maheta Molango, head of the English Professional Footballers’ Association.
The demands facing top players have steadily increased in recent years as tournaments have expanded and new competitions created, increasing revenue streams for clubs and governing bodies.
The World Cup is set to expand from 32 to 48 teams for the first time in 2026, while the European Championship and Africa Cup of Nations have jumped from 16 to 24 teams in recent years.
FIFA’s Club World Cup will become a 32-team event for the first time in 2025 and the group stage of UEFA’s Champions League will involve eight games per team from next season, up from six.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola spoke about his frustration with the lack of rest time this week after his side were forced to play nine times in little over a month since returning from a two-week winter break.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said Tuesday his side need a “miracle” to remain competitive for the rest of the season due to their mounting injury list.
PFA chief executive Molango used the example of City’s 1-0 Champions League final victory over Inter Milan last season as an example of how the increased demands on players is watering down the quality of the product.
“The Champions League final is supposed to be our Super Bowl. It wasn’t because one of the best players in the world (Kevin) 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. Surely that’s not what we want to see,” Molango told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit.
Molango said the NFL’s huge media rights deal in the United States should serve as an example to football administrators that extending competitions and creating new events is not always the best way to generate wealth.
The NFL enjoys the most lucrative TV rights package in sport, with an 11-year deal struck in 2021 with domestic broadcasters worth $110 billion, even though there is only a 17-game regular season.
“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,” said Molango.
“Even financially, I was talking to our colleagues at the NFL players association, the union of the NFL, and they were telling me they play 17 games, they make over $10 billion (a season).
“Surely there is a value in scarcity and our perception is right now unfortunately decisions are taken without taking into consideration the players, who are the assets of this game, and second 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.”