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'Players must be protected': Premier League festive schedule slammed after numerous injuries blamed on fixture congestion

'Players must be protected': Premier League festive schedule slammed after numerous injuries blamed on fixture congestion
A spate of injuries suffered by some of the Premier League's top clubs are evidence that the league's Christmas schedule places too much of a burden on players, according to football world players' union Fifpro.

Data supplied by injury watchdog Premier Injuries Limited to British publication The Daily Telegraph shows that 96 injuries were reported by Premier League clubs across December and the first two days of January with a further 17 players currently be assessed for knocks, a figure which will almost certainly prove to be greater than the number of injuries suffered by players across the entirety of August and September.

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The upturn in injuries has been blamed on fixture congestion around the Christmas period in the UK, the busiest time of the year for English clubs due to the league's tradition of holding several games either side of December 25, with some clubs playing four games across twelve days. 

Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers were among the busiest, at one point playing two games in the space of 46 hours while Liverpool's participation in the FIFA Club World Cup meant that they played nine games in December - two of which were in Qatar.

Newcastle United were among those affected by injuries, with four of their players going down in the span of 20 minutes in their New Years Day clash with Leicester City, while England captain Harry Kane was a high profile casualty of Spurs' schedule as he was substituted after suffering a hamstring injury during his side's loss to Southampton. He is expected to miss a month or more of the season.

Fifpro’s Europe president Bobby Barnes has called for action to be taken, particularly ahead of the Autumn World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

"Football’s governing bodies, as well as the clubs and leagues, need to get together on a global basis to try to ease this pressure,” he said. "We are in a slightly different position – we have this tradition of playing at Christmas, and it is part of our culture – but it feels as if it is not a joined up system.

"We can’t look at it just from a domestic point of view. The time has come to have a holistic view. We need a joined up and grown up discussion. You don’t play the game without the players. Their interests have to be better protected."

Fifpro released recommendations in August which called for the implementation of a mandatory mid-season break of two weeks for players, a limit on the amount of games that can be played in a short period and systems to monitor players to protect them from over-playing. 

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"You get injuries by forcing players to play tired,” Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said of the issue. "I said it a month ago, that to ask players to play four games in 10 days is ludicrous. This is the consequence."

New Years Day also saw two players - Arsenal's Callum Chambers and Aston Villa's Wesley - suffer serious knee injuries which are expected to rule them out of action until next season.

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