A 27,000 match study by football coach Raymond Verheijen demonstrates a clear performance deficit by teams playing after only two days’ recovery. ‘I don’t see that the games’ authorities can continue to ask teams to play twice in three days. It is simply not fair play.’
The new study, which incorporates top tier league, Champions League and Europa League matches across seven countries and ten seasons, offers emphatic proof that teams playing every three days are substantially disadvantaged by player fatigue, and for the first time quantifies this disadvantage across the season.
Across the study, teams playing after just two days’ recovery against teams who had enjoyed at least a three-day gap were found to be 42% less likely to win.
In terms of league points lost, teams playing on the Saturday following a Wednesday night Champions League fixture were found to reap 0.55 points less than average. Teams playing on Sunday following a Thursday night Europa League match were 0.41 points per game worse off.
The study also focused upon 71,251 goals and when they scored during games. In parallel with winning less and losing more after just two recovery days, teams scored 0.52 fewer goals per game, scored 0.30 goals less in the final third and conceded 0.45 more goals than average in the final half hour.
To restore fair play, its author, Raymond Verheijen, is calling upon national leagues, associations and international federations to make a three-day gap between matches mandatory in all fixture scheduling. Portugal can act as an example in this. The Portuguese FA offers clubs involved in Europe the chance to play on Friday or Monday to allow full recovery.
Verheijen: ‘The problem is not the number of fixtures, but the scheduling. The differences in performance between teams after a three and a six-day gap are almost imperceptible.’
Verheijen, World football’s foremost authority on player periodisation, has witnessed the effects of insufficient recovery throughout his career, in terms of both performance and player injury rates. The study now underlines what he knew to be true, that full recovery is not possible in just two days.
‘The results are clear,’ comments Verheijen, ‘on the basis of this evidence, I don’t see how the game’s authorities can continue to ask teams to play twice in three days. It is simply not fair.’
The results seem to have enormous consequences for the qualifications for EURO 2016. The International Match Calendar states that in future, two qualification matches may be played between Thursday and Tuesday. Apparently with the possibility for four days rest. But there are plans by UEFA that the team which plays its first qualification match on Thursday will have to play its second match on Sunday. And the team that plays its first match on Friday will have to play its second match on Monday. And finally that the team that plays its first match on Saturday will have to play its second match on Tuesday.
Verheijen: ‘That means that all teams will only have two days recovery time. In that case, things do not look good for the team that plays its second match away. Because my study demonstrates that where both teams had just two days’ rest, the away team suffered more, showing a 26% reduced likelihood of victory. This is something the national coaches will have to take into account during negotiations concerning the fixture schedule. But hopefully the plans will not go ahead and all teams will be given the opportunity of three days in which to recover completely.’
- Published: 14 May 2012