The report looks at changes to the schedule of a representative group of 85 players across 14 leagues. The following were some of the main findings:
• Total minutes played declined by 20 percent
• National team minutes played fell by 56 percent
• The fragmented calendar and periodically-increased injury risk
Gregorius is FIFPRO’s Director Global Policy & Strategic Relations for Women’s Football. She took up her new post on June 1, having joined FIFPRO’s policy department in 2019 following a career as a player. She played 100 times for New Zealand and had stints playing in the U.K., Germany and Japan. Here is an edited version of her comments.
How has the reduction in games affected players?
If you’re a top-level competitor and you go that long without competition, it is going to have an effect on you.
It wasn’t even just the lack of games, it was the lack of the ability to train, or a very fragmented approach to training, whether you had to do it alone or within your apartment or in small groups.
Then when the matches came back, after a long period of inactivity, there was high intensity and a lot of players got injured. They were dropping like flies.
National team matches, as well as club, suffered a significant reduction. What type of impact, including financial, has this had to players been?
It’s been quite harsh, in reality. Players really rely on national team matches not just for the competition but also for remuneration. I have spoken to many players and they are devastated not to have had national team games.
So, competitively and financially they are taking a hit. Some national team competitions like the Algarve Cup are really woven into the history of the women’s game, even more than some leagues, and when those competitions can’t take place it has many downstream effects.
Some players in the U.S. have moved to England to get playing time
There is a trend of players moving every few months to different leagues around the world trying to piece together a 12 month period of good football. This has been the case for quite a while with movement to/from the W-League in Australia and leagues in the U.S and Scandinavia.
Over the past year we started to see a trend emerge with players from the U.S. and Canada heading to Europe.
This comes from a need to be able to play football all year round, both to reach your potential but to also be comfortable financially.
“I know what long-haul travel, fatigue and a lack of optimum conditions can do to your performance so this is a subject really important to me personally”— by Sarah Gregorius
What is the lesson from this report and the PWM platform?
We have to have this kind of data analysis to protect players and effectively balance their schedule and workload. There is not enough women’s football specific sports science and data out there, but the PWM platform is a great asset to start to address this gap.
For example, I know what long-haul travel, fatigue, and not provided conditions to be at your best, can do to your performance so this is a subject that is really important to me personally.
We want to create a situation where women’s footballer players can perform at 100 percent every time they go on the pitch. That will improve their careers, help develop the sport and give us a sustainable and thriving industry.