Manchester United v Olympiakos - UEFA Champions League Second Round Second Leg

Injuries suck. They threaten teams’ ability to push for a trophy or stay up altogether, they cost a lot of money in wasted wages and depth-driven player purchases, and they dilute competitions like the upcoming World Cup.

There is a lot we don’t know about the cause of injuries, but the sheer volume of matches players face each season seems to be a leading contender. The more stress they put on joints and muscles, the more likely a bad landing will break or pull something, putting them out of play for weeks or even months at a time.

So in light of this, one might think the last thing that a football governing body would want to do is to add more high octane, competitive football matches to a calendar already packed with league fixtures, league cups, European group and knockout competitions, etc. etc. And yet that is what UEFA will do with the introduction of the Nations League, the competitive format which will replace international friendlies, which received unanimous approval from UEFA yesterday:

Platini had pledged to raise the status and commercial value of friendlies. It has struggled against competition from popular and lucrative European domestic leagues and UEFA’s own Champions League.

The European Club Association representing more than 200 clubs said it ”has taken note” of the announcement which could fuel club vs. country tensions.

It requires them to release their players for extra competitive fixtures.

”The European clubs do not oppose such a project, as the number of international matches in the calendar remains unchanged,” said the ECA, which campaigned to remove the February and August dates once set aside for friendlies. ”Once more details concerning the competition format are available, ECA will analyze the possible impact on club football.”

The international players union, FIFPro, for their part are tentatively onside with the proposal, but have published their concerns:

More competitive matches will also increase the strain on the players. “It should be clear that there is a difference in a friendly match and a competitive match”, explains FIFPro Director of Player Services, Tijs Tummers. “As we understand, the Nations League will be another prestigious competition. As a consequence, that implies an increase in the workload for the group of top players.”

Nobody likes friendlies, but they can provide a vital means for teams to experiment with player selections and formations. Taking that away and adding another competitive event to a busy calendar could put even more strain on Europe’s best athletes, further putting Europe’s greatest players at risk.