'It's a problem' - Pep Guardiola urges English soccer to make player welfare a priority

Frantic festive period has raised annual debate over whether or not the scheduling is fair on players.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola does not believe Premier League players will strike over welfare concerns, but he has urged change.

In England it is traditional to continue to play matches through the festive period, with most clubs playing three times between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson spoke out about concerns over player welfare, calling on the governing bodies in the game to take it more seriously.

This year the problem has been amplified by the fixture backlog building up due to games postponed because of COVID ouotbreaks, and Guardiola says he would welcome a conversation on the matter.

Guardiola insists he is not against the idea of playing games over the holiday period but thinks the fixture list needs to be slimmed down.

And the Spaniard is frustrated that discussions over the matter rarely lead to decisive action.

He said: "The tradition of Boxing Day in the Premier League is massively important. It is one of the characteristics, it is why the Premier League is special. This is not going to be changed.

"I would love to play in this period with lots of games. It is tradition from centuries ago. Boxing Day was so nice for families to go to the stadiums. I can imagine January 1 in London - Arsenal vs Man City - it will be so nice.

"The problem is the fixtures. The calendar, 365 days a year with international duties for the national team, huge competitions with a lot of games.

"The players have two or three weeks of holiday in the summer and it's the season again. This is too much.

"Should the players and the managers be all together together and make a strike, or something, because just through words it's not going to be solved? For FIFA, the Premier League, the broadcasters… the business is more important than the welfare."

Riyad Mahrez Man City Pep Guardiola

Asked if he felt players really would strike, he said at a press conference: "No, I don't think so because we want to play, we want to continue, to make the people happy going to the stadium on the 26th, 27th, 29th, 31st and first, and play games because we love to do that.

"I'm not saying there's a reason to make a strike but (there are) more games and more games and less holidays. It's a problem."

Maheta Molango, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, feels authorities need to take this matter seriously now.

He said: "I've spoken with many senior players on this issue. I can tell you that it isn't going away. Players don't choose to speak out on issues like this without having given it a lot of thought.

"As their union, the PFA enables players to stand together. That unity gives them enormous strength.

"Now it's up to those who run the game at all levels to begin to take this seriously so it's an issue that can be addressed constructively with players at the heart of the conversation. That has to happen now. This isn't something that can be kicked down the road again."

READ MORE: The Analyst: Where does your team rank in a league table of Boxing Day Premier League matches?

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