This is an increasingly critical issue in the football industry and has important implications for calendar and competition design as well as the integration of specific player safeguards.
Competitions and their formats at national and international level have drastically changed since the inception of professional football. Moreover, the fragmented match calendar at the top end of professional football increases the risks of damaging a sustainable and healthy career path, impacting sporting excellence. At the same time, thousands of players and hundreds of professional clubs do not have adequate competition structures that offer sufficient playing opportunities across the game.
Avoid the collision or overlapping of match obligations for players between club and national team.
The international match calendar includes the dates for which players must be released by their clubs to play for their national team. The current IMC has been agreed for a 6-year period: 2018-2024. Therefore, the IMC provides a general framework that engineers the possibility to schedule matches and defines the co-existence of national team competitions and club competitions (domestic and international). Given the overall density of match calendars player safeguards and the need to avoid the collision or overlapping of match obligations for players between club and national team.
5 days of rest and recovery time between two appearances
According to FIFPRO’s ‘At the Limit’ study from 2019, players need at least 120 hours (5 days) between games to perform at their best over a season and to manage injury risk.
A match is considered to be in the “critical zone” for a player, if the player was
- On the pitch for at least 45 minutes,
- Played a minimum of 45 minutes in the previous game,
- Did not have at least 5 days of rest and recovery time between these two appearances.
It is important to note that it is the cumulative exposure to matches in critical zone paired with travel and potentially shortened off- and in- season breaks that constitute an issue for player health, performance and career longevity.
7 weeks off & 4 weeks REtraining during a year
Off-season breaks are mandatory, should last at least 5 weeks (combination of physically inactive and active weeks) and must take place outside the club and national team.
In-season break that a player is permitted to take without matches or training, during a season. In-season breaks are mandatory and should last 2 weeks. However, they are sometimes not honoured, particularly given the demanding requirements of the match calendar.
In addition, directly following the off-season break/holiday period, a minimum acceptable period of time for re-training must be guaranteed to all players before participation in future competitive matches. The optimal duration of a re-training period depends on various factors including the physical status of the player and the duration of the break itself. However, it is generally considered that a re-training period lasting at least 4 weeks is needed to work on injury prevention and to optimize future performances.
Ongoing factual and evidence based scientific knowledge on match schedules and player workload provides critical information to evaluate and design integrated player safeguards against excessive workload as well as specific policies to provide sufficient playing opportunities for professional footballers.