Beth Mead: Something must change in women’s football to protect players

Beth Mead - Beth Mead: Something must change in women’s football to protect players
Beth Mead is calling for player welfare to be a key consideration in scheduling debates - PA/Jane Barlow

Beth Mead is calling for more to be done to protect players, who she says are “caught in the middle” of scheduling debates between governing bodies.

England play European Women’s Championship 2025 qualifiers in June and July this summer, which has prompted concerns about the lack of any substantial off-season in the calendar.

Asked about those summer windows, Lionesses forward Mead said: “There’s a lot of discussions going around with players, what your club wants, what your country wants, what the schedule looks like, what it’s asking for. It’s tough. Something needs to be done for the welfare of the players, whether that’s us as players that have to fight for that or not.

“Fifa and Uefa have got a lot of different scheduling issues between them and then we get caught in the middle, which is probably not fair. We’ve just got to be a little bit more realistic with physically, mentally, how players and teams are meant to do that on such a consistent basis.

“We’ll keep asking the questions and pushing for the right answers or the answers that we think would be more beneficial to all of us as a collective, [including] players from other countries. It’s not just England. Hopefully we can figure out the scheduling a bit better because at the moment it’s not ideal.”

It is understood discussions are ongoing between clubs and national associations to determine where and when players will be able to train between the June and July international windows, and for how long.

Stanway warns of ‘burnout’ because of calendar

Mead’s England team-mate Georgia Stanway, whose last summer off was in 2016, has warned players are at risk of “burnout”, saying: “The thing that we want as players is that the decision is taken away from us. It is a potential burnout. But we play football, we love football, football is our life.

“Everything we do is to be successful on the pitch. And we know that we’ll put ourselves in the best possible position for Euro 25 because that’s the trophy that we want to maintain. I love football so I’m actually so fortunate. I’m proud to be in this situation, to continue to play football. My family don’t appreciate it when they’ve got to travel everywhere every year.”

Head coach Sarina Wiegman added: “There’s no tournament [for England this summer] so that should be an opportunity to get some rest, but because of the window in June and the window in July how are you going to take some time off?

“We’ve asked Fifa and Uefa to look at that and change that in the future so players can have some rest. It’s great that we have players that love football, but we have to take care of them so we have to do something about the calendar.

“We can’t change it [this year] so you’re trying to do the best to take care of the players and at the same time perform to the highest level and take out the highest risks of getting injured, in collaboration with clubs. The clubs and we as the FA [Football Association] don’t have any control over the calendar.”

Mead, Wiegman and Stanway’s words follow concerns raised by Leah Williamson, who labelled the schedule “unsustainable” when speaking to Telegraph Sport in January. Women’s football typically has at least one additional international window per year than the men’s game.

In this window, England are playing Austria and Italy in friendlies on neutral ground in Spain on Friday and Tuesday respectively. Mead says England have to put the disappointment of finishing second in their Nations League group in December behind them.

“As an England team, we want to win everything that’s put in front of us,” Mead said. “That’s the goal and that’s the ambition, especially because in the last few years we have competed at the highest level. It’s frustrating [not to be playing in Nations League semi-finals] but ultimately we fell short. We’ve got to put that in the past and, now, we move on and prepare for a Euros and we play against some good opposition this week.”