Jordan Henderson has spoken to the press about how Premier League player welfare is not taken seriously enough.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Liverpool’s captain has said that the safety and welfare of players in the top flight hasn’t been looked after properly in the last ‘few years’. COVID has made it worse and has put players in danger of more than just mental and physical burnout.
Jordan Henderson Highlights Lack of Concern for Premier League Player Welfare
Premier League Player Welfare Under Scrutiny
Football is an increasingly commercialised product, and despite footballers’ immense salaries, their health isn’t being protected. This was the case even before COVID with newly created competitions like the Nations League, plus the demand for more regular World Cup level football.
Jordan Henderson said: “I know people will say we do get paid a lot of money to go out and play football. I get that and understand that, but football is everything to us. And especially those players that are playing international games and European games, you get a maximum of probably two or three weeks off a year. I am not sure that is enough to physically recover and mentally recover from the season previous.”
This is another testimony against the huge physical workload that players have. It might seem like a glorious dream job, but every worker needs a break. Yet they are often playing more matches and with more intense tournaments in place of friendlies or off-seasons.
More Communication Needed
The issue seems to be a disconnect between what players think is good for them and what the Premier League or UEFA think is good for their competitions. In the era of COVID, it has been made all the more apparent, with some games still going ahead despite the worst ever infection rates across many clubs.
Henderson said: “There is no communication with players in terms of what they think, which is a big problem really, I am not saying they have to make decisions on what players think, because everybody will have a different opinion, but I think they need to be part of a conversation because, ultimately, we are the ones that are going out and feeling it and playing it.”
“Football to us is everything and we want to be able to perform at the highest level every time we set foot on the pitch. And unfortunately, in this period it is difficult to do that.
“We will try to have conversations in the background and try to have some sort of influence going forward, but at the minute I don’t feel the players get the respect they deserve in terms of having somebody being able to speak for them independently and having the power to say actually this isn’t right for player welfare.”
It is dangerous that even elite footballers do not feel they are respected enough by the likes of the Premier League or UEFA to have their opinions heard. Again this was epitomised by the Super League breakaway, which happened completely over the heads of the players.
As the Omicron variant continues to spread in the New Year, more players are likely to be affected. More games will have to be called off to protect players and fans alike. And when it comes to rescheduling matches, they can’t just be crammed in especially with squads that are much thinner with more injuries, fitness issues and players recovering from COVID.
The game needs to change.