According to the World Players’ Union, footballers at this summer’s Women’s World Cup felt they did not receive enough rest before the tournament.
Fifpro surveyed players from 26 of the 32 national teams after the World Cup with two-thirds saying they believed they were not at their physical peak at the start of the competition.
Over half of players felt they had insufficient rest before the World Cup.
And 60% said their post-tournament rest was inadequate.
The Women’s World Cup opened on 20 July, 54 days after the final Women’s Super League match of the season. The American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), which runs from March to November, chose not to break for the summer tournament.
Less than three weeks after the World Cup final on 20 August, 54 teams – including WSL club Arsenal – were involved in Champions League qualifying action on 6 September.
Fifpro recommends “an off-season break off four weeks, with a retraining period of six weeks”.
The union said 86% of respondents had less than two weeks of rest after their World Cup campaign before rejoining their club.
One player told Fifpro the lack of recovery time was “mentally exhausting”, with another adding: “I was trying to rest and prepare at the same time, which doesn’t really work.”
Some bonus pay remains outstanding
Fifpro also said one in three survey respondents reported earning less than $30,000 (£23,600) a year from football, and one in five supplemented their income with a second job.
About 15% of players earned more than $150,000 (£118,200) per year.
This annual pay did not include the World Cup bonuses players received as individual payments direct from Fifa.
Those payments ranged from £23,500 for players whose teams were knocked out in the group stages to £211,000 if they won the tournament.
Fifpro added some players were still waiting to receive their individual payments for a “variety” of reasons, but believed “it was a definite” the bonuses would eventually be paid.
Teams fall short of medical commitments
Fifpro also said one in 10 players did not have a medical examination before the tournament and 22% did not have an electrocardiogram (ECG) – a test that records the heart’s electrical activity.
Both are required as part of Fifa’s tournament regulations.
“Anything below 100% when it comes to access to an ECG or undertaking a pre-tournament medical is not acceptable,” said Dr Alex Culvin, Fifpro head of strategy and research for women’s football.
“Players need an environment that supports their holistic wellbeing, from mental health through to tournament conditions, so they have the platform to be at their competitive best”.
In addition, two-thirds of players said mental health support could have been better and two-thirds of players said technical staff needed to improve.