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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Care for the players, says sports chaplain

The Football Association (FA) must stop treating players as commodities and consider their wellbeing, the Westminster Diocesan Chaplain for Sport has warned.

Mgr Vladimir Felzmann has also called on Universe readers to put pressure on the governing body in an effort to rethink their scheduling following the congested fixture schedule over the Christmas and New Year period.

“For too many involved in football, the players are commodities, assets to be maximised, whatever the cost to their wellbeing,” Mgr Felzmann told The Universe.

“Wall to wall television, around the whole of our global city, seduces the money-people in Premier clubs to prioritise incomes over the health of their money earners on the field,” he added.

The chaplain, who is also CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, noted that tight, exhausting schedules – such as the recent Premier League match schedule over the Christmas and New Year period – was both detrimental to players’ health and generally gave rich clubs an unfair advantage.

“Sport is a metaphor for life. Football’s inhumanity to man and woman is not a monopoly,” said Mgr Felzmann.

“The increasing pressures placed on people at Canary Wharf – where I am Catholic Chaplain as part of our Multifaith Chaplaincy Team – is all too palpable, destroying the health of individuals and their families.

“Supporters, using social media – could put pressure on the FA, and shame them into a more virtuous scheduling strategy. I invite Universe readers who love football to take up the challenge,” he added.

Mgr Felzmann’s call follows claims from Pep Guardiola that the congested festive fixture schedule might “kill” his Manchester City players.

The former Barcelona boss also urged the FA to “think a little bit” more about their welfare.

“We are going to kill them. I think the federation (FA) has to reflect,” said Guardiola.

“Here in England, we don’t protect the players and that is a big mistake. You can play every three, four or five days but not play every two days. It is not basketball. The players need recovery.”

This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 13th January

Chelsea v Leicester City – 3:00pm
Crystal Palace v Burnley – 3:00pm
Huddersfield Town v West Ham United – 3:00pm
Newcastle United v Swansea City – 3:00pm
Watford v Southampton – 3:00pm
West Bromwich Albion v Brighton & Hove Albion – 3:00pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Everton – 5:30pm

Sunday 14th January

AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal – 1:30pm
Liverpool v Manchester City – 4:00pm

Monday 15th January

Manchester United v Stoke City – 8:00pm

Picture: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola checks on Gabriel Jesus just before he is substituted during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London, on New Year’s Eve after picking up an injury. (Steven Paston/PA Wire/PA Images).