Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has urged the Premier League to follow the major European leagues and competitions by adopting the five substitutions option to ease the burden on players during a condensed, demanding season.
Despite seeing the most time lost to injuries, the sharpest spike in muscle injuries, significant injuries and total injuries in this campaign, England’s top-flight stands alone in its decision not to allow more changes off the bench.
This despite even the EFL and FA Cup taking on the player welfare advice.
The late end to 2019-20, lack of proper pre-season, disruptions due to positive Covid tests which is on the rise, having three internationals crammed into 10 days during FIFA breaks and fitting in European fixtures every week have eaten into recovery time, affected rhythm and enhanced the risk of players breaking down.
Speaking to the Between The Lines podcast Martinez said: “A unique season has to mean unique solutions. Some teams involved in European games had very little time of pre-season – in one case a French club had only three days from one season to another.
“It’s crazy, that’s a very difficult turnaround. We’re in a situation that is nobody’s fault. We’re being attacked by this pandemic and football is one of the things essential for bringing joy to lives and being used for people to have a real feeling like we can share emotions and experiences together.
“So I think it’s responsibility for everyone in football to make the effort for the game to carry on as safely as possible. But this puts a lot of pressure on the players, there is a lot of games and very little recovery.
“In terms of coaches, we need to use info we have to protect our players and institutions should give us tools to allow as much rotation as possible.
“The five-sub rule helps, you don’t have to use it, but to have it there represents the time we are living in. It is not an advantage to certain squads, but to help get through this period.
“We need to be more respectful about the situation and any rule that can help players we should be more open to.”
Martinez, who has a physiology degree, has not used his Belgium players in all three matches during the international breaks on account of their welfare.
Apart from greater protection for footballers, the 47-year-old also hopes the ruinous financial effects of coronavirus will force organisations into more sustainable operating structures.
“Every club has suffered from the Covid situation and every business – that’s clear, but some clubs have used this as an excuse.
“This period has been a good time to hide the bad management of the past few years of which there’s been terrible consequences.
“There are many lessons out of it and we need to bring a reality check into how clubs are managed so that they have to work within their means.
“Owners should be very carefully picked and made responsible. People can’t come in to make business out of football they need to consider people’s feelings too as there is a lot at stake.”
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