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Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman and Georgia Stanway among those fearing 'burnout' in women's game due to fixture schedule

Following the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand last summer, England will have had to contend with further Nations League and friendly matches, plus Euro 2025 qualifiers, before the end of this season; the Olympics also takes place this summer, further cramping the schedule

Credit - Getty
Image: Georgia Stanway has travelled more than 50,000 miles since July 2022

When the group stage of the Euro 2025 qualifiers finishes in July it will mark almost an entire year of football for some of the world's best players.

Despite Team GB failing to qualify for the Olympics, summer football is again on the agenda and many players and coaches are worried about the risks.

Georgia Stanway admitted she thought she had her first summer off since 2016 but England now face Sweden, France and the Republic of Ireland in June and July.

"Burnout" is the word she used to describe her fears, which is something shared by her head coach.

"Every player really wants to play for club and for country," Sarina Wiegman told Sky Sports. "It's our job to monitor them and have conversations if we think they aren't alright.

"We always have a general plan and we always modify when necessary. What we don't want is they come in, burn out and we lose them for months."

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Speaking last month, Sarina Wiegman called on FIFA and UEFA to accommodate rest periods in the women's football calendar

Players being out long term is a huge issue in the game.

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FIFPro, world football's player union, found 14 per cent of the 139 international players they monitored over a two-year period picked up an ACL injury.

Its research also found that the more a player travels and the fewer rest days they have between games, the more susceptible they are to a major knee injury.

"It's impossible. Players get injured and we're playing with their health. It's not the meaning of sports," Netherlands head coach Andries Jonker told Sky Sports during a training camp in Spain.

"I'm very worried. The first thing I did when we qualified for the European Championships was give the players a holiday.

"It's really necessary that things are going to change. Our technical director Nigel de Jong has spoken to UEFA, to FIFA. England are now doing the same. Now people are starting to realise this is a big problem."

Vivianne Miedema
Image: Arsenal and Netherlands star Vivianne Miedema is again sidelined through injury

At the start of the season, some players - including England's Alessia Russo - had just over a week off before needing to return for pre-season training ahead of the Champions League qualifiers.

That is a situation that will repeat itself across Europe as the Olympics finish on August 10, three-and-a-half weeks before next season's Champions League preliminary rounds start.

"Organisations, UEFA, FIFA, make these decisions without voices from the players," England's all-time appearance leader Fara Williams insists.

"As much as I'd love to see the players out there, they need a physical and mental break. Back-to-back competitions, World Cup… it's been a draining few years for them. They need a rest."

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England legend Fara Williams believes the Lionesses will benefit from a break in the summer following their failure to qualify for the Paris Olympics

The player-fatigue issue has been exacerbated by the fact they are coming off a year that included a World Cup on the other side of the planet in Australia and New Zealand.

But no Lioness has travelled more than Stanway since July 2022. She has been on the road for 57,166 miles while playing for club and country during that period and will be playing summer football for the seventh year out of eight.

The only time the Bayern Munich midfielder has not been at a tournament was during the Covid-hit season in 2020.

Stanway's air miles seem minute compared to the amount of travel Chelsea striker Sam Kerr has completed during the same period.

The Australia captain - currently recovering from an ACL injury - has travelled 165,900 miles over the last 21 months.

Sam Kerr pleaded not guilty on Monday
Image: Sam Kerr sustained an ACL injury earlier this season

"It comes down to scheduling. If you've got big international games, you need your players available for them," former Lioness Jodie Taylor said.

"Look at all the ACL injuries we're seeing at the top end of the game. It's only going to get worse. Not just physical issues - we're going to see more mental issues and emotional challenges because of the lack of rest and all the pressures."

FIFA is holding discussions with international coaches, player unions and the game's stakeholders in an attempt to come up with a schedule that is in the best interests of all.

The problem is that the current schedule, criticised by many, is set in stone until 2026.

How the issue is resolved in a manner that not only suits the players but protects their welfare is far from simple.

How congested is the schedule?

Bright captained England to the World Cup final, where they lost to Spain
Image: Millie Bright captained England at the World Cup last summer - but is now injured

England reached the World Cup final last summer, meaning they played seven matches in Australia and New Zealand.

The Lionesses then played six Nations League matches between September and December.

After two friendlies last month, England play six Euro 2025 qualifiers between April and July. As a result, Wiegman's side will have played 21 matches in the 12 months since the start of the World Cup.

England's schedule would have been even more congested had they qualified for the Olympics, which take place in July and August.

What is more, England's players must also contend with a packed calendar at club level. For example, Chelsea - England's sole representative in the Champions League - could play up to 11 games in Europe.

The Blues will also play 22 WSL fixtures and could play as many as five in the FA Cup and three in the League Cup - meaning a total of 41 in all competitions.

As a result, a Chelsea and England player who played at the World Cup and was available for every one of their team's fixtures during the 2023/24 season could play up to 62 matches for club and country during the calendar year.

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