What if Football Stopped for a Year?

What if Football Stopped for a Year?


As Arrigo Sacchi so memorably put it, football
is “the most important of the unimportant things in life.” Following football is essentially a full-time
job now. The endless blur of Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday thrums through the calendar like a bassline
and – with press conferences, transfer news, twitter, and fantasy football, it’s easy
to become overwhelmed. This is no accident. The Football Industrial
Complex demands ceaseless expansion. The World Cup is getting bigger. The European Championships
have already been expanded. Women’s soccer at all levels deserves much more attention.
Soon, FIFA will launch its re-imagined Club World Cup, too. There are still times of the
week upon which the sport has yet to plant its flag, but none of those days are safe
and nothing is sacred. Is this what fans want? Not really, but that
doesn’t seem to matter. Profit is king and at its worst, football looks a lot like capitalism:
mechanised, distasteful, unavoidable. But what if it wasn’t? What if we could
press the pause button on football? What if, against all odds, everyone involved in the
game agreed to stop, just for a year? Not the whole industry, but the matches. What would happen? And might the sport be
better for it? The players would certainly benefit, as they
currently play far too much football. As the physical demands of matches have increased—players
run farther and faster than ever before—so too has the number of games in the schedule.
Real Madrid played 62 competitive games in 2017-18. Flamengo, in Brazil, played a frankly
inhumane 82 times in 2017. It’s little wonder that, by the time World Cups roll around,
so many stars are suffering from injuries and fatigue. A year without matches would allow everyone
to get fit. Imagine a refreshed Alexis Sánchez, with those consecutive tournaments rinsed
out of his muscles, raring to go. Imagine Gareth Bale forgetting where the physio room
at the Bernabéu even is. Or Son Heung Min, not having to fly for days to satisfy his
club and international commitments. There could be psychological and emotional
benefits which, coupled with fresher bodies, could have a tremendously positive effect
on the standard of play. It could provide an advantage for young, developing players
too, who are often the casualties of a deepening ‘win now’ culture and whose careful incubation
is prohibited by the calendar. What if academy prospects could be gently
embedded within sides, becoming increasingly involved in training sessions and acquiring
first-team responsibilities without quite as much pressure. What if they were given
time to grow at a responsible pace? Football’s current form is inhibiting for
coaches, too, who have to build their sides over short pre-seasons. Coping with injuries
and transfers is one challenge, but the congested calendar poses another: with all those games—and
the many days which are inevitably lost between them —there’s never quite enough time
on the training ground. What if, as a consequence, the world is only
seeing the half-formed ideologies of the game’s highest priests? How fierce could Jurgen Klopp’s
counter-pressing be? What might Pep Guardiola’s attacking football look like? How many new set-piece routines could Tony
Pulis imagine and execute? Impatience and short-termism in the stands
and boardrooms prevents vision from fully flowering. Only the lucky are given time to
build with substance and to put their big ideas someway into practice. The rest are
really just watching the guillotine blade glint in the sunlight. In the most extreme
circumstances, that can directly influence the kind of football that is being played:
A manager who needs a result is always likely to be more risk-averse, his team more defensive.
The game’s imperatives – its week-to-week grind – has made expression a luxury that
most coaches have to do without. A year-long sabbatical would partly solve
those issues. With time to really consider their decisions,
owners could appoint managers in line with a broader vision for their clubs, not just
grab at the most convenient option. With no defeats or draws to muddy the waters, those
managers could go about their business without fear of dismissal. And with months and months
for them to develop their tactics and teach their players new habits, a technical improvement
on the field of play would be inevitable. And what of the supporters, whose dependency
seems so absolute? Even though their enthusiasm for the game
is often assumed to be insatiable, the narrowing gap between seasons is beginning to test that
assumption. Summers are no longer the barren prairies they once were: 2019 saw three international
tournaments running simultaneously through July and the Champions League qualifiers began
before the end of the month. So, while fan are still looking forward to the domestic
season beginning, it perhaps isn’t with that same fluttering, sugar-rush ache of anticipation. Scarcity was football’s ally. Rewind twenty
years and football on television was still a novelty, even in homes with satellite television.
Today, you can watch a Spanish game on Monday night, gorge on continental football on Tuesday,
Wednesday, and Thursday, catch the Friday-night Ligue 1 match and the earlier Eredivise kick-off
on Sunday, and then fill in the gaps with as many games as life allows. Long, boring summers also used to replenish
football’s novelty, dimming the memory of goalless draws and tedious mid-table finishes.
The eight-month conversation around the sport used to end in May and not begin again until
August. The internet changed that, of course, but so too has the unending fixture list:
every game has an implication for some club, somewhere, meaning that the debate has become
ceaseless. As soon as the first pre-season friendly kicks off, the opinions, complaints
and hyperbole begin too. The cumulative effect is deadening fatigue,
which any 12-month hiatus would quickly alleviate and replace with a more traditional yearning. It’s a fantasy scenario. Football’s gears
need to keep grinding to fill the pockets of its stakeholders and sponsors, and the
clubs themselves are businesses first and sporting entities second. The games are part
of their branding strategy; a rolling advert which never ends. But if they did – if football’s fields
were left fallow for a year – a richer sport might just grow in its place.

100 thoughts on “What if Football Stopped for a Year?

  1. I'm sorry to say it, but I REALLY don't like the argument presented here. I'm swayed by the claim that reducing the number of games footballers play season-on-season, but my man's making a huge unwarranted leap from that to then suggesting that the solution is os a year-long hiatus rather than perhaps a 30% reduction in the number of games.
    And then there's the fact that it's just filled with a series of "what-ifs" and doesn't seriously consider how this might actually be counter-productive.

  2. Come on mate you can’t seriously be suggesting that footballers have a hard working life. I can’t feel sorry for players who play 60+ matches a season when there are Doctors, nurses, firefighters and factory workers who work twice as much and earn a fraction of the money footballs do.

    If footballers think playing a ‘inhumane 88 games a season’ is bad maybe they should try living in the real world for 5 minutes. After that am sure they will be grateful to play football for a living.

  3. Stupid concept. The game theory behind this would be – under the assumption that teams want to win, generally – the team's who want to win want to stay in the meta of football and would still play matches, which would be capitalized, thus leading to a quasi season or circuit of mini tournaments. Also no serious player would want to take a year off, ruin their legacy etc. Look at Kobe Bryant, he said after winning NBA championship for the third or so time – no small feat – yeah I'll celebrate tonight, but tomorrow I'll be on the court again. To be a winner and professional you need this mindset, and a season off would be against their interest too.
    Also look at the greats, Ronaldo, Messi a hypothetical season off next year could mean we never see these players again. And what a way to let these legends go…
    If the author has burn out from too much football, he doesn't have watch not read the news…

  4. Don't be silly … Football is all the time, forever, it will never stop, the football is officially going on forever! It will never be finally decided who has won the football! There is still everything to play for, and forever to play it in! So that's the football! Coming up! Watch it! Watch the football! Watch it! Watch it! It's gonna move… Watch the football! It's football!

  5. It's a shame this only looked at the potential positives. A year off might benefit some players, but would be a disaster for others, such as a young player needing competitive fixtures or an old player with only one or two years left in their career

  6. One thing I'd like to see is the abolishment of super cups (that includes the Community Shield). Let's be honest, they serve no real purpose except to milk extra money from fans.

    Secondly, there'll be no football during the Summer of 2022 (unless you're a fan of leagues that run from February/March to November, a la MLS), so that could work massively in favour of Europe (and maybe other leagues around the world). Speaking of the MLS, those new tournaments (the Campeones Cup, and the MLS/Liga MX Leagues Cup) are pointless exercises.

  7. But… this is silly. You get the same benefits by reducing the fixture list – except then you get them over the long-term rather than for just one season, AND in a way that the sport's governing bodies might actually one day consider.

  8. I would die if football matches stopped for a whole week because i follow nearly every top league in the world and womens football and international matches,so i am an expert of every league. Ask me about the polish league. What about liga do brasil. I'll answer. I breathe football. That's why every day I have a match to watch. Without football, life would be boring

  9. Very interesting video. There are probably a lot of clubs who couldn't afford the luxury of not earning any $ for a year though

  10. culture industries are relentless, I'd never thought of sports as being culture industries but of course they are. the profit motive is truly an insidious thing that's already eaten everything we love, it's just a matter of finding out or realizing.

  11. Two full domestic cup competitions in England is overkill. Re-brand the League Cup to an Under-23s, or scrap it altogether. The only interest ever shown in it is if your team makes the final – even the two legged semi is seen as a hindrance, coming straight after the busy Christmas period. That may actually reignite some interest in the FA Cup, which is pale shadow of its former glories. Remove replays from the competition, and go straight to extra time and penalties, if original tie ends in a stalemate. Alternatively, use the Copa America formula from Brazil this past summer, and go straights to penalties after 90mins.

    Work collectively with UEFA to establish a collective calendar for all leagues under its umbrella, and request FIFA to reduce the number of international friendly breaks, that are nothing more than cash grabs by the glamour nations, and do nothing towards establishing cohesion within a team (some chance of that last one happening….$$$)

  12. A year without matches would also mean pretty much anyone on the bottom tier of the pyramid would be quite honestly fucked. It'd be grand for the top stars but you'd be literally taking the food off the table of many folks that, while most of us never heard of them by name or person, literally live off of it.

    So… yeah. Lessen the number of matches on the top if you must.

  13. this is a stupid argument, with the money these top clubs make and players they need to play, and more then ever they have better facilities medical departments has they ever had …

  14. There’s a hilarious skit from Mitchell and Webb look you can find on YouTube called ‘Watch the Football’. It’s ribgs very true to this and it’s probably near 10 years old now.

  15. Two thoughts:

    1. On this video: there should indeed be real breaks for players to rest and coaches to think and develop as well as smaller leagues and tournaments.

    2. On Thee Athletic: I like the platform, the content is interesting, but I feel like Tifo's past few videos have just been repeating articles from the Athletic. I fell in love with this channel because of your research and insight (as well as Joe's soothing voice), it feels like your own voice is being lost in this collaboration.

  16. Sigh. The old women's football canard. What women's football deserves to have and what it needs to do are two very, very different things. And while they refuse to do the latter in favour of demanding the former, they will forever be a sideshow and an unamusing one, at that.

  17. I personally think football should stop for a year. In stead, the gears of football need to slow down. For the benefit of the players, the game, and even the business in the long term.

  18. Womens football doesnt deserve anything just like mens football. They warrant our attention from entertainment they offer.

  19. This has actually happened to one sport. The NHL cancelled the 2004-05 season due to a lockout. The effects of this afterwards were terrifying.

  20. I gotten bee honest, I completely disagree of fan fatigue. As an American, we have grown accustomed to year round soccer. We fallow our MLS teams from March till October and our international teams during the overlap and off season. Each league presents a different brand and style. Each competitions have interesting story lines and history. I can't generalize for American fan but soccer is not the only sport that I'm passionate about. I throughly love our traditionally popular sports here in the states as well. For me, I believe the variety in competition and philosophies keeps me from getting tired of any one sport or in this case league. The more soccer the better! Besides it would be cruel to eliminate all those jobs that are supported by the sport just to give the players and managers a break for a year.

  21. I grew up loving the game, and like many others, football was my life.
    Now I go to the occasional game, but really I don't give a feck anymore.
    I can't relate to the amount of money involved, or keep up with the endless stream of matches played.

  22. Ronaldo is a genius, he purposely didn't play for Portugal during there friendlys because it would have fatigued him.

  23. Could you make a video on world cup 2022 and how the leagues will play out since the world cup is in the middle of the season?

  24. 9 months on, 3 months off would make the most sense in my opinion, although It will be hard to be implemented for everyone, especially for the Nordic countries

  25. Nothing will happen. Absolutely nothing for fans. Only tv channels and other businesses would get effected. Footballers will run out of jobs. Nothing to fans as easy as that. I am talking about football being paused for ever. It is all business and money in all honesty all the cups and plates and gold and silver are meaningless, just stupid attraction. That goes for any sports. Sports are good for physical health and only if you play. If you are stupid fan just watching , then you are useless, you are wasting your time. Money is what makes sports valuable, otherwise there is no reason to see it. It is just an exercise in all honesty. What is this tifo football? Nothing just some nonsense talk about a non sense game only money matters and otherwise for usual people it's health and exercise.

  26. Alexis Sanchez has been on the bench for the last 3 years. That's one player that does not need any more rest!

  27. I've never been a fotboll fan in my entire life and my views on the game have not changed… However during the world cup in Russia last year i actually could enjoy the game for once in my life. The games intrigued me. And so my curiosity grew on me, so after the Sweden V German game i immedietly took to the web and searched for the game on youtube. It was then i noticed this absoulte fantastic channel. And as im commenting on this video i've never once looked back since! Absolute fantastic coverage during the WC and most of all, intriguing videos week after week.

  28. Great idea. And all these cunts who make a living out of talking about football take a year off also? Back to working in the local student pub?

  29. Yeah, those players over 30 will be soooo glad that they jumped what could possibly have been the last year of their career.

  30. Beautiful video Tifo. Would you please make a video on how the football world lost Oscar (fotmer Chelsea player) to fatigue. He barely had pr-season between 2012 and 2016

  31. All I watch is the highlights after the matches are played,don't have time to watch a full game of football lol

  32. The NFL, despite only being popular in one nation and having a 16 game schedule, has over double the revenue of the Premier League. The NFL has perfected the art of making its fans suffer a 6 month wait between games, which makes their appetites all but insatiable when week 1 finally rolls around. Whereas in some respects, it feels like the football season never really ends anymore

  33. This first bit of this video is a contradiction. You mention how players are better fit by running faster and further, yet make an argument for less soccer. Wouldn't physical toll result in poorer performance?

  34. Okay. I am genuinely curious and I have thought about this for a long, long time. Why is let's say 82 games so inhumane or hard? Look at hockey for instance. In the NHL they have 82 game seasons followed by a playoff with even more games for the teams who make it. In hockey they hit and get hit hard. They exhaust themselves in 40 second bursts basically, the lenght of a shift. It looks to be a lot more grueling on the body to me, yet they don't seem to complain that much or be any worse for wear? I mean, sure, a lot of NHL players have life long injuries because of too many concussions etc but that's a problem with the contact to the head rules and enforcement more than anything. What makes football so horrible and draining if they only play once or at the most twice a week? In hockey you frequently have back to back games with no rest inbetween.

    I am sorry if I am ignorant but I just want to know. I don't want to offend anyone or imply anything, I really just know to little about the human body or the both sports and what toll it takes, enlighten me! 🙂

  35. Liked the video before starting it. I wish I could like it once after watching it too. QUALITY content Tifo, as always.

  36. I don't feel like summer football is necessarily a bad thing. It helps players to get In shape for the upcoming season. Game rhythm is usually slow and not very physically demanding In the long run. What I would change is the frequency of games played. League games in the weekend and cups mid week. That's it. And I don't see the point of having 2 National cups (England)

  37. If the Premier League had that early season intensity all year… it'd be so much more fun. But, so much competition does allow for the "mayhem" we love to see in the Premier League and in other leagues. Double-edged sword.

  38. Totally agree. Sky sports tried in the 90s to make football a middle class game instead of working class. By 2020 they will almost have succeeded.

  39. Football has lost context. To be competitive, you now need to have a superstar reserve team, never mind the first team.
    American sports leagues espacially the NFL get it right. Play enough games to keep people interested and not enough to overdo it.
    1) Entirely too many trophies to play for. Can't qualify for Champions League, there is Europa League and a 3rd one coming. This has got to stop. Everyone shouldn't get a medal.
    2) English football need to scrap the EFL cup. One knockout competition (FA cup )is enough. Or at least give the teams that play European football a pass on EFL cup.
    3 More substitutions during the game. From 3 to 5.
    4) Align seasons schedules worldwide so everyone gets the same off season, schedule and transfer windows.
    5) Get rid of these "Super Cups" and Community Shields.
    6) There needs to be at least an 8 week off season with no football what so ever, similar to American sports.
    7) There needs to be some kind of salary cap and/or draft system to make teams more competitive.

  40. This video is just beyond daft. The real question is should football follow a similar model to the nfl whereby there are much fewer games and a large gap between seasons.
    I'd also suggest a draft and trades but that's harder to implement globally and hard to balance in terms of fairness.

  41. There are too many matches and players are playing almost year round at this point.

    Don't think a year break is necessary though and it would have to be frequent to remedy the issue which would never happen.

  42. I wouldn’t mind if football stopped for a year yea it would be upsetting to not see my team play, but at least I could have the satisfaction of getting the stuff that I need to do done..
    After we all have lives and I sometimes feel that football gets in the way of most responsibilities we people have.

    Plus it’s a huge benefit for the players as it would basically improve the quality of football because everyone would be playing at their absolute peaks…

    So it’s a benefit for the fans and the players because the players can rest recover and frankly improve with a year break from the game..
    and for the fans it’s good because seriously sometimes football becomes boring and a waste of time…

    A waste of time for me at least…

  43. 'Football looks quite a lot like capitalism; mechanised, distasteful, unavoidable' Tifo spot on with the economic/political analysis as well as the football.

  44. this video completly misses the point. if you want to save football you should get rid of free market ideas. foreign investors and corrupt officials. its such a typical American thing to say that clubs are business first. football clubs are pilars of communities. not businesses. but then again the sponsor of this video is a big corporation that cares only about money.

  45. that's like saying to the IRS, Church and Banks
    "I'll take a year off, see you next year."
    In other words impossible because for many countries it IS like a religion 😐

  46. The fact of having too many clubs to face over the calendar year could be sorted if there were less teams in each division and less teams in the european competitions too. (To make up for that just come up with more tiers in both domestic and european competitions

  47. I feel the only thing this video is missing is "What system would football use?" I was really hoping for a viable solution, because I 100% agree that football is getting saturated. 1 Year OFF 1 Year ON or 1 Year OFF 3 Years ON??

  48. How would it be if a League season spanned 2 years (so did the Champions League), but Cup competitions were annual? It probably would bring back the importance of Cups and reduce fatigue as well

  49. If soccer stopped for a year… I’ll watch basketball, baseball, football, or esports. God bless America. USA#1

  50. I stopped following football for this reason and just watch games when they are on because there are far too many and gets boring. This is why I watch Formula 1 as there is something to look forward to on weekends and it being frequent enough to follow but not so frequent to appreciate the racing.

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