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Leah Williamson warns ‘unsustainable’ schedule stunting women’s game growth after ACL injury

Leah Williamson has warned the “unsustainable” football calendar will stunt the growth of the women’s game due to the volume of long-term injuries it contributes to.

The Arsenal and England defender missed the 2023 World Cup after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, one of four Arsenal first-team players to suffer such an injury last season, alongside Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema and Laura Wienroither.

Five of the 20 nominees for the 2022 Ballon d’Or Feminin sustained an ACL injury in 2022, while Australia and Chelsea striker Sam Kerr became the ninth Women’s Super League player to suffer an ACL injury this season.

Lionesses captain Williamson said the lack of rest caused by the congested schedule was a contributing factor.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Williamson said: “I think the way you’re taking women’s football right now, you won’t be able to increase the ticket prices or get bigger crowds in the stadiums because you won’t have players to watch. We are driving ourselves into the ground with it, so some sort of solution needs to be found soon, in terms of the schedule, otherwise it’s not sustainable.”

The 2023 Women’s World Cup final between Spain and England took place on August 20, while Arsenal were in Champions League qualifying action on September 6.

There were three international windows between the conclusion of the World Cup and the end of the year, while the introduction of the Women’s Nations League this season has added to the international calendar.

Williamson said mandatory rest periods should be introduced into the football calendar.

“Put in time when neither club nor country can touch a player, and just let them have a rest,” she said. “But instead what we do is say, ‘You need to play this, this, this’ and then say, ‘I’ll give you two days off in between’. It’s impossible. It’s unsustainable.”

Williamson has returned to full training following over eight months out and Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall confirmed this month she “shouldn’t be too far off” returning to action.

(John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

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