French players' union warns against 'dangerous' return of Ligue 1 season

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AFP
Sylvain Kastendeuch, the co-president of the UNFP, suggests writing off this season in favour of allowing 2020-21 to take place safely.

The professional footballers' union in France has warned against resuming the Ligue 1 season because the busy schedule could put the health of players at risk.

Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 were suspended indefinitely on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with France on a nationwide lockdown until at least May 11.

A report in L'Equipe last week said organisers are considering restarting the top flight on June 3 or 17, with teams likely to have to play every three days to conclude the regular campaign by July 25 and leave time for promotion and relegation play-offs in early August.

Such a hectic calendar would lead to a greater risk of players becoming injured and risk games becoming less entertaining for fans, according to Sylvain Kastendeuch, the co-president of the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP).

Kastendeuch instead suggests the priority should be on making plans to ensure the 2020-21 season takes place as normal, rather than rush through the completion of 2019-20.

"It seems so obvious that we often forget it: without footballers, there is no football!" he wrote in Le Monde. "We must therefore take care of them and protect them from the risks to which they are exposed.

"The medical analysis carried out by the UNFP and FIFPro warns of the high physical risks in the event of matches being organised for every three days after such a long pause: increased fatigue, and a sixfold increase in the incidence of muscle injuries from the end of the second match, a drop in performance.

"Should these risks be taken? The question deserves to be asked as it's a real issue for the players, for their careers, for the industry as a whole and, above all, for the spectacle football can offer. Will it be able to meet expectations, especially in these difficult times? We have to think about it collectively.

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"The economic emergency must not take precedence over the importance of public health. Let us renounce resuming the championship under these conditions – a resumption that would be hasty and dangerous.

"Let us arrange today the conditions for a successful and exemplary next season of this football we love so much.

"In order to allow our talents to continue to shine, it seems to me more reasonable, more just and more virtuous today to make the choice of reason, so that tomorrow we can again make the choice from the heart."

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