Football injuries
Amidst the current congested football schedule, Premier League clubs have suffered an average of 20 injuries this campaign. Phil Noble/Reuters

The scheduling of the football calendar has become a major talking point in recent times with many voicing concerns over player welfare.

Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), Maheta Molango, has previously criticised the current load put on modern football players and addressed the matter again at the 2024 Financial Times Business of Football Summit in London.

The intensity of today's football matches combined with how often players are in action has led to players picking up more injuries and evidently appearing exhausted at times.

Last season was particularly draining for plenty of players, as the 2022 FIFA World Cup took place during the middle of the season. This caused the domestic leagues to start earlier than usual and finish slightly later than a regular season would.

Among the biggest stars to suffer from the gruelling schedule has been Manchester City and Belgium midfielder, Kevin De Bruyne. The player had to go off in the first half of the 2023 UEFA Champions League final due to a hamstring problem and suffered a recurrence of the injury last August, which caused him to miss five months of this season.

Players the calibre of De Bruyne missing important matches is a key reason why Molango is concerned with the number of matches nowadays.

He said: "The Champions League final is supposed to be our Super Bowl. It wasn't because one of the best players in the world, De Bruyne, was out in the 30th minute, Haaland was exhausted; Rodri, who is a top athlete, said after 60 minutes he had cramps."

For teams with aspirations of getting to the latter stages of multiple competitions, the reality for them now appears to be that they will have to suffer physically along the way and play through pain.

Molango believes the latest consequence of footballers having to go through an intense schedule is the effect on the viewing experience for fans. The 41-year-old explained: "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."

Molango's view on the current football calendar has been largely echoed by Premier League managers including Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Erik ten Hag. Clubs in England's top division have picked up an average of 20 injuries this season, with Newcastle United suffering the most with 29.

England Women's boss, Sarina Wiegman has also voiced her concerns with the amount of matches now having to be played in the women's game. The fixture congestion in women's football is a massive concern as it comes during a period where there is a crisis of many top stars spending lengthy time out due to anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

Long player absences could become much more prominent if the wishes of many of the current managers to reduce the load on footballers do not get granted. Fans potentially witnessing more of the showcase games of the season without the inclusion of star players could be the tipping point in them also strongly speaking out against the current schedule.

Unfortunately for those advocating for a better-balanced schedule to benefit footballer's welfare, the amount of matches top-level players will compete in will only increase in the coming years.

The new Champions League format from the 2024/2025 campaign onwards will see clubs play two extra group stage matches. In the new single league format, the top eight teams will go through to the round of 16, but the teams ranked 9th to 24th will have to play a two-legged playoff tie to earn their place in the knockout stages.

The FIFA Club World Cup will also increase its number of matches from the 2025 edition onwards and will now feature 32 teams.

The first edition of the newly expanded Club World Cup will take place across June and July in the United States next year before then being held every four years. Clubs already confirmed to participate in the tournament include Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

The expansion of the tournament has drawn mass criticism, including from Manchester City and Portugal midfielder, Bernardo Silva, who claimed players do not have a say in these changes.

However, according to ex-Arsenal manager and FIFA Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger, the Club World Cup expansion is necessary to help football grow globally.

Ultimately, conversations will need to be had between the relevant parties so that a solution to player welfare can be found. Otherwise, football could soon be on its way to a standoff between the top executives and players.