Strudwick: Rule changes could lead to equivalent of eight extra games

Tony Strudwick: One of the most experienced performance leaders in British football

Tony Strudwick: One of the most experienced performance leaders in British football

WEST BROM Director of Medical Tony Strudwick has warned that new rule changes could mean players facing the equivalent of eight extra games a season.

Referees in the Premier League and Football League have been instructed to impose World Cup-style amounts of injury time this season in an effort to cut down on time wasting.

Administrators are concerned that the ball is in play for an average of only 55 minutes in the Premier League and 52 minutes in the Championship. Now referees will have to time interruptions such as goal celebrations, injuries, substitutions and preparations for free kicks and then add these on at the end of the game.

The move mirrors what happened at the Qatar World Cup, with 24 minutes added on during England’s game against Iran, for example. There were a total of 15 minutes of added time for Southampton’s win against Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night (six minutes in the first half and nine in the second), which was the opening game of the Championship season.

This led Strudwick to tweet: “If every game in championship plays 15 mins added time, that equates to approximately eight games per season playing time, which is an additional 17% output. Rule changes will push demands on all squads.

“Four thousand minutes a season is an exceptional return for any player - extra added minutes will push the demands to nearly 5000 for those who play every game.”

Strudwick is one of the most experienced and respected performance partitioners in British football, having worked for West Ham, England, Manchester United and Wales during a career spanning more than two decades.

Plymouth Argyle Head of Fitness and Conditioning Elliott Turner added: “All physical outputs [are] being cranked up with added time. Going to be a long season for these players. World Cup was seven to eight games maximum… 46-game Championship season is going to be a slog.”

The EFL is also adopting the multi-ball system used in the Premier League, meaning multiple balls are available following a stoppage, rather than just one. This is in an effort to speed up the game, but Strudwick said: “Adding multi ball system at the same time means the intensity and volume of games is increased simultaneously.”

There will also be a crackdown on dissent from players and staff, with an automatic yellow card if there is more than one coach in the technical area and harsher penalties for managers that leave their technical area.

Aggression from coaches towards match officials or opponents will be routinely met with a red card, and any club official sent off will no longer be allowed to watch the game from the stands.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has warned that games could now routinely last for 100 minutes, while Manchester United and France defender Raphael Varane has also voiced concerns about the rule changes.

Writing on Twitter, Varane said: “We had a meeting last week with the FA. They recommended from the referees new decisions and rules. From the managers and players, we have shared our concerns for many years now that there are too many games, the schedule is overcrowded, and it’s at a dangerous level for players physical and mental well-being.

“Despite our previous feedbacks, they have now recommended for next season: longer games, more intensity, and less emotions to be shown by players. We just want to be in good condition on the pitch to give 100% to our club and fans. Why are our opinions not being heard?

“As a player I feel very privileged to do the job I love every day but I feel these changes are damaging our game. We want to be at our maximum level, the best we can be and put on amazing performances for fans to celebrate every week.

“I believe it is important that we, players and managers, highlight these important issues as we want to protect the game we love and give the fans our best.”

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