BERN (Reuters) - The current fixture pile-up is putting footballers at risk of stress and injury and could affect their performances at next year's European Championship and the 2022 World Cup, the global players' union FIFPRO said on Friday.
FIFPRO also called for an urgent review of the calendar and said competition organisers such as FIFA, UEFA and domestic leagues should limit unnecessary travel.
The 2020-21 season started around one month later than usual -- a knock-on effect of the COVID-19 pandemic -- yet competition organisers have squeezed the usual number of matches into the reduced period.
To make up for lost time, Champions League group stage matches have been played weekly instead of every two weeks and the 10-day international breaks now feature three matches per team instead of the usual two.
"The current handling of the match calendar during this emergency period lacks sufficient considerations for (players') health, well-being and performance and requires an urgent and ongoing revision," said FIFPRO.
"Footballers are already experiencing fatigue due to the ongoing competition cycle, back-to-back matches and a lack of adequate rest and recovery during the European summer period. This, in turn, is putting them at an elevated risk of stress and injury."
FIFPRO said it supported football industry's efforts to continue playing but said it needed to focus on the most relevant competitions and matches.
"The intensive current match calendar not only risks players' health, but also risks undermining their performance at the UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup Qatar in 2022," it added.
FIFPRO said that measures to safeguard players' health should include a four-week break between seasons, flexible two-week breaks during the season, pre-season training of at least four weeks and individual workload protocols.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)