Premier League clubs involved in August’s mini-tournaments for the Champions League and Europa League are expected to ask for a start later than the rest of next season’s division to allow their players a longer break away.
Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Wolves are all participating in the Uefa club competition, while Chelsea will have to overcome the first-leg home loss of Bayern Munich to reach the last eight in the Champions League. It is understood that in 2020-21 the Premier League would consider delaying an application for opening fixtures for clubs.
The domestic campaign is expected to start in mid-September and there is concern about the lack of rest that will require due to this season’s congested end and the possibility of Euro 2020 being played in summer 2021. Some players would not be able to have an extended holiday of 13 months.
City, United, and Chelsea are also still in the FA Cup and a team has reached that final and a European competition would have added seven games to their league match tally. On 21 August, the Europa League finals are in Germany, and two days later, the Champions League finals are in Portugal.
Fifpro, the global players’ union, is aware of the concentrated workload on its members and called for the complete rest of at least three weeks between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns on Friday before the players start pre-season training.
It also urged leagues to ensure a mid-season break of 10-14 days, extend the rules allowing more substitutions and impose a restriction on footballers playing consecutive matches without sufficient recovery time. “Research has shown higher rates of injury at the same time, with fewer than six days of rest between matches,” Fifpro said.
It added in a statement: “The match calendar had already stretched a large percentage of elite-level footballers even before the Covid-19 pandemic, with insufficient recovery time between games and insufficient mental and physical rest between seasons. Now we’re seeing the first spike in injuries since the restart due to insufficient preparation time and overcrowded match schedules.”
Discussions on match calendar reforms have hitherto overlooked the responsibility of balancing the needs of competition organizers with the needs of players.