Every Friday when the first divisions in Europe are on hold for the international break, I am pretty sure you would be able to hear in every coffee room across the world what was said this morning in ours at work:”Yeah, I get (England) are playing – just put the name of any country you want – but it’s not the same without club football”. So starting from this statement from one of my colleagues, I just expressed my thoughts about how I would reschedule the entire football season. They pushed me to write about it in my blog. They think the idea has legs.
I know it’s a long shot, but someone has to make the first move, I suppose.
In simple terms, my idea would be to completely remove the international breaks during the season, and play all the qualifiers to a major tournament just the summer before that tournament actually happens. Example, for EURO 2020, I’d play all the qualifiers in summer 2019. At the end of the day, we are talking about 9-10 games maximum, to be played in 5 weeks across June and July.
Below, I’ll try to explain how all the parties involved may benefit from this reform.
Better for club football
How many times we hear of arguments between clubs and national federations about players, especially injured ones? How many times a player gets injured, comes off, and then you see him called up for international duty? Take the Sanchez example. He limped off last Saturday, with Wenger saying that his ankle was in terrible state. Yesterday he started for Chile. Or Harry Kane last time he went injured. Southgate called him up, and all Spurs fans had a sigh of relief when we knew he was not gonna play him.
Let’s be honest. Clubs see international duties as a liability, not a benefit. And not only because every time clubs don’t play, they don’t make money. Managers are concerned that their players would be working with a different medical/training staff, and that their regimes would not be as accurate and well planned like the ones they have, resulting in injuries or other kind of form problems. For those with several South-American players, they are concerned that players may not get back in time for the next game, or that they would be suffering from heavy jet-lag, impacting their abilities to perform on the pitch. All of this, paired with the complaint of not having enough time to prepare a game because 70-80% of the team was away on international duty.
On average, every season there are four international breaks, two before Christmas; two between Christmas and the end of the championships. This means that every league will have to squeeze 4 mid-week games here and there, further congesting the already packed football calendar. Another common topic of complaint. Ask José. Just remove those 4 breaks, which would allow the leagues to start a couple of weeks later, giving more rest to the players during the summer. Not mentioning more time between games during the season.
This would also give more visibility to other leagues, League One/Two, for example, who would definitely benefit from more exposure during August.
This new calendar would prevent loads of complaints, concerns or hidden agendas (like clubs asking players not to work as hard while on internationals).
Better for national teams
Not just complaints, concerns or hidden agendas would be avoided, but national teams would see pretty much disappear the risk of having to pay compensation to clubs because one of their players got injured while on international duty. Players generate money, so clubs would have them always available, national teams would not have to pay for them. The result – everyone gets more money.
Just staying on the economic side of the subject, imagine how much money would be generated with a tournament pretty much every summer. Year 1 – EUROs , Copa America, etc; year 2 – World Cup Qualifiers; year 3 – World Cup; year 4 – regional qualifiers; year 5 – EUROs, Copa America, etc. Nice, isn’t it?
Now imagine the money that would be made out of this. Take sponsorships or tv rights for example. Every national team would have a better chance of finding a more lucrative sponsorships thanks to the increased exposure a qualifying tournament would have.
Moving on the technical side, one of the things that often you hear about teams who often struggle during tournaments is the lack of experience in a tournament scenario. What would be better than a tournament to qualify to another bigger tournament? I can see only benefits for the managers, able to select a team of 25-30 players for the qualifiers, with the chance of building the foundations for the major tournament for the year after. Team mates would have more time to bond, not just the few days together before becoming enemies again. Players, especially younger ones, or those not playing at Champions League level, would gain valuable experience in a tournament setting, with games every 3-4 days where every game would matter to get access to the bigger tournament.
Another thing national teams would gain is players’ focus on the task. I agree that every player should be a professional and feel proud of representing his country and wear the shirt. But national football makes up a tiny percentage of the season. The main stage is the Premier League, the Serie A, the Champions League, Bundesliga, etc. How many players are on international duties, but maybe thinking to the upcoming title decider or cup knockout stage? Just put the qualifiers in the summer, and all they can think about is the national team.
Someone would say, how can a manager prepare for the qualifying tournament without seeing the players with good frequency? Do you think 4 times during the season actually make a difference? You can still have stages and friendlies. It’s simple, make the leagues play on the Saturday, get all the players together on Sunday, have stages, play a friendly on the Tuesday, everyone back to their club on the Wednesday/Thursday, make the leagues play on the Sunday after, so clubs have the time to prepare the games.
I can see another benefit with this. Consistency. If the access to a major tournament is granted through a smaller tournament played all together, a manager would be able to select a player based on his performances across the entire season, not just on the basis of what he did in the last month. This would help international managers identify those players they can rely on because they deliver consistently. This would benefit clubs as well, as their players would work hard until the very last minute, to ensure they can be part of the tournament the following summer.
Better for business & national economies
I have already touched upon the economic benefits for clubs and national teams from a summer qualifying tournament. I think the benefit for businesses and national economies cannot be underestimated.
Why do TV broadcasters invest loads of cash on football? Why are companies so keen to sponsor football teams? For a return on the investment. Would you not see the benefit in more exposure?
Take TVs for example. With loads of teams involved in the qualifiers, there is the chance of having football on pretty much every day up to first weeks of July… Can you see what I see?
I just would like to THANK YOU for making it this far down the article. Hopefully you found it interesting. If you do, please like and share this article.
Lo Sperone Ventilatore