Too Much Football in Too Little Time

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It’s that time of the year again. The middle of February marks the return of the Champions League, in its guise of knockout football. For many, this is when Europe’s top club competition feels like it. But this time, it feels less like a return of European competition, but more like more congestion of fixtures.

Fixture Congestion Becoming a Problem Around Europe

The Spectre of Too Much Football

When football made it’s way back in May last year, there were understandable sighs of relief. Not just in terms of the financial impact on clubs, but also because of what it meant to fans. After a three-month hiatus, the beautiful game returned. There was a keen sense of anticipation and excitement, but that wouldn’t last.

Since then – bar the short break before the new season – there’s been football almost every day. There is little room to breathe. But it’s not just in terms of being a daily exercise. It’s also in terms of the time. Particularly in the Premier League, where the league has to make sure the television deal doesn’t hit a reef. So, games are split into different times; noon kick-offs, then 3pm, then 5pm, then 8pm. It feels endless.

Before the pandemic hit, something we were reluctant to admit was that there was too much football. Weekend games started on Friday, ended on Monday, and midweek games happened from Tuesday to Thursday. It was starting to feel exhausting, and the lockdown break was almost welcome. It’s something we’re suffering from again. Too much football, and little room to breathe.

Football’s Need for Concessions

The problem with too much football is how it ruins the novelty. It almost feels like moving in with a friend with whom one isn’t that close. As such, illusions are shattered and the whole thing starts to feel like a drag. Part of the culture of football lies with not watching football that much. In the past, there was a need to see just one or two per week and that was it.

In the age of too much football, however, is that the culture has been shifted. There’s no longer a sense of looking forward to something. It feels too much, and it’s not helped by the lack of fans, in which the whole affair feels tepid and stale. It’s starting to feel like monotony.

It’s time for football to look at making concessions. This is something football didn’t do before, and frankly, still doesn’t want to do. Champions League games are being geographically moved, due to travel restrictions, yet UEFA is against single-legged ties. There were still FA Cup and League Cup games this season. A 24-team Club World Cup is coming and in March, there will still an ill-advised international break with unhelpful travel.

Too Much Football Has to Be Dialled Back

The need for a consistent amount of football is rooted in the financial needs of clubs and organisations. But it is also rooted in football exceptionalism. The sense that life’s rules don’t apply to the sport. Hence why there are clamours for the players – who have access to healthcare – to be given the vaccines first.

At some point, everyone needs to realise the impact of too much football. Not least the players, who have little room for rest, and are being asked to perform at elite level amidst a pandemic, regardless of their mental and psychological wellbeing.

Financial motives or not, football needs to realise it’s time to dial it back a bit. This is something overdue, even without a pandemic. If it doesn’t throw some weight off the boat, the whole thing will sink.

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