Soccer-Packed schedule is 'killing the product', PFA chief warns

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Luton Town v Manchester City - Kenilworth Road, Luton, Britain - February 27, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra/ File Photo

(Reuters) - Soccer's packed schedule not only jeopardises players' health but diminishes the quality of the sport, said Maheta Molango, chief of the English Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

In recent years, demands on players have risen as tournaments have expanded and new competitions introduced that boost revenue for clubs and governing bodies, with players and managers criticising the relentless soccer calendar.

"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 told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit on Wednesday.

As a cautionary tale, the PFA chief pointed to Kevin de Bruyne's early substitution in Manchester City's win over Inter Milan in the Champions League final last season.

"The Champions League final is supposed to be our Super Bowl," Molango added.

"It wasn't, because one of the best players in the world, De Bruyne, was out in the 30th minute, (Erling) Haaland was exhausted, Rodri said after 60 minutes he had cramps. Surely that's not what we want to see."

Molango added that soccer could stand to learn from American Football, highlighting the fact that the NFL has a lucrative television rights deal despite a shorter regular season than European soccer leagues.

"I was talking to our colleagues at the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and they were telling me they play 17 games and make over $10 billion (a season)," Molango said.

"Surely there is a value in scarcity and, right now, unfortunately, decisions are taken without taking into consideration the players, who are the assets of this game.

"Secondly, they are missing out on a very interesting opinion on how to improve the quality on the pitch, so it's a lose-lose situation."

(Reporting by Shifa Jahan in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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