Four out of five players want more done to keep them safe on the pitch

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More than 80 per cent of EFL players feel not enough is being done to keep them safe from physical harm and discrimination on the pitch, while more than half are opposed to new rules on added time.

Over 50 per cent of the 100 players in the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two surveyed by the Professional Footballers’ Association over the October international break said they had been part of a game where a pitch invasion had resulted in a player being attacked or harassed.

Under 20 per cent felt enough was being done to identify those responsible for pitch invasions, harassment of players and discriminatory chanting.

Almost 60 per cent of players said they did not support new rules on added time introduced at the start of this season.

Referees worldwide have been asked by the game’s lawmakers to more accurately measure the time lost to stoppages such as goal celebrations, injuries, substitutions and VAR checks, after the approach was first trialled at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Nearly 60 per cent of the EFL players also said they believed the longer games resulting from the new rules were causing more players to get injured.

The survey found almost 75 per cent felt players were not given a proper break between seasons, with almost 60 per cent feeling that a lack of rest and recovery time was leading to more players getting injured.

The survey respondents were split almost 50-50 on whether VAR should be introduced into the EFL. The PA news agency understands 47 respondents were in favour, 46 against and the remaining seven unsure.

Almost a third did not support the use of VAR in the sport at all, and while nearly 60 per cent said they broadly supported its use, they felt significant improvements were needed.

The PFA will use the survey results to highlight existing protections and rights that its members may not be aware of. On lack of rest and recovery time, for instance, the PFA has highlighted that in the current men’s standard contract, negotiated by the union, players are entitled to five weeks of paid holiday per year.

It also means clubs should not “unreasonably refuse” a request from a player to take three weeks of holiday consecutively, for example between seasons.

PFA chief executive Maheta Molango said: “The intention of a project like this is to identify areas where we need to work collaboratively with those who run the game, and to ensure that the views of players are heard and acted on.

“Issues around player workload continue to be raised by players at all levels, whether that’s Virgil van Dijk and Raphael Varane speaking about the work we are doing with them to address the uncontrolled growth of the fixture calendar, or EFL members telling us that, overwhelmingly, they are not getting suitable rest and recovery between seasons.

“This will continue to be a priority for us, but where there are already rights in place to protect players, it’s important that they are aware of them. It’s equally important for us as a union to know when players may feel they need support enforcing such rights.”

Omar Beckles, the PFA chair and a current player at Leyton Orient, added: “We’re constantly talking to members, but these surveys are another way of letting them share their views.

“That insight is really valuable for us when we’re in the room, on their behalf, with the bodies who run the game.”

An EFL spokesperson said: “Player welfare is a priority for all the game’s stakeholders. We note the findings of the member survey, and we look forward to discussing the specific details behind the results with the PFA.”

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