Gareth Southgate, manager of the English National Team, has joined a growing chorus of managers, including Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Ole Gunnar Solskjær, in criticizing the way football’s governing bodies have handled scheduling and injury mitigation following Joe Gomez’s knee injury in England training today.
As fixtures have begun to pile up and non-contact injury rates have increased, a number of Premier League managers have complained about the condensed schedule and the Premier League’s decision to not continue allowing five substitutions per match for this season.
With Gomez being just the latest in a growing list of players to acquire an injury that can almost certainly be tied to the grueling domestic, European, and international schedules, Southgate re-iterated his early season belief that the condensed schedule was going to be very hard on the players.
“I spoke about this right at the beginning of the season,” said Southgate. “With Joe (Gomez) a good example. We knew the load he has had in the last six weeks or so. We gave him and the other players who had been in European matches who played Sunday, an extra day’s recovery. Yet still something like this has happened.”
Unfortunately, injuries like this are an inevitability with teams playing two matches nearly every week. An extra day of rest here and there is nice, but it’s insignificant in the face of just how much players are forced to play with the current schedule.
“We are going to see injuries. It’s a desperately sad situation. When you see the impact on an individual, it hits home even more,” lamented the England boss.
Southgate went on to express that the real problem is that the different governing bodies (the FA, UEFA, FIFA etc.) didn’t work together to find solutions for a schedule that protected the players.
“There are lots of discussions about extra subs and things like that, but the bigger picture here is governing bodies, broader authorities, everybody within the game needs to work together.”
“There was an opportunity - we have a winter World Cup in two years - this year to think differently. The pandemic has thrown up all sorts of difficulties for people. But everybody has tried to cram the program into a smaller period.”
The lack of cooperation and the insistence on not sacrificing matches (and the TV revenue they bring) has led to a schedule that is honestly dangerous for the wellbeing and health of footballers around the world.
Every year we see injuries ramp up during the Premier League’s loaded holiday period, but that didn’t stop football’s governing bodies from forcing through absurdly condensed schedules that make high injury rates a certainty.
Southgate finished by essentially saying that the damage has already been done. While calls for increased match substitutions may ease things a bit, it’s little more than a band-aid on a deep wound. The time to look after the wellbeing of the players was when schedules were being made this summer. That didn’t happen, and we are now seeing the consequences.
“Nobody has given way and people haven’t collaborated enough. We are now trying to affect things in reverse or too late. A lot of these discussions should have happened in the summer,” said Southgate.
“We could have delayed the start of the league, delayed the start of international football, adjusted the calendar in its entirety and all worked together. But people haven’t done that.”