“The sport is being taken away from the supporters” – Gordon Hill
We are headed into the final weeks of club football before the World Cup and I can’t help but feel we’re already seeing problems when it comes to injuries and fitness with players.
Professional football has a long and storied history, an established calendar and routine for optimum fitness. There is a modern debate – let’s be honest, it’s been going on for a couple of decades at least – about the number of games that are being played but in this period I think we’re witnessing something of a breaking point, and all because of the ridiculous decision to hold a World Cup in the middle of the regular season.
We’re seeing a lot of injuries to players, I suspect we’ll see more. It was always going to be unreasonable to bring players back earlier from the summer break, have them do a full pre-season to prepare for a full season, have them play at high intensity, then suddenly take this break, only to be instantly thrown back into games of high stakes. Rules have changed to accommodate it – five substitutions are permitted – and that’s good for the players, but it’s amending the competition to accommodate the World Cup and, in my opinion, it should not have got to this.
There have been complaints about the tournament from the off – it’s a country without a proper league, it didn’t have stadiums, the weather was too hot. There have been complaints and cover-ups, many suspected deaths, still unclear guidance on their human rights policies with many groups still feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome. It’s meant to be a game for everyone.
It’s clearly money orientated, and I’ve watched England fail to get to host the tournament since 1966 and even countries like Australia, who have an established enough history with the sport to be given a chance, not even get a look in.
At the same time, coincidental or not, we’re seeing the European Super League talk rear its head again; just another indication of some uncomfortable changes that I sadly feel are inevitable within the sport.
FIFA and UEFA are moving the goalposts. The Premier League is looking at holding a pre-season competition in the US. We just came out of a global situation where we should have realised the importance and value of supporters – and yet those in charge seem more determined than ever to take the game away from its roots.