The balance between rest and commercial interests

Ajax’s recent Eredivisie loss to PSV (which ended their title hopes) has led to heated debate in the Netherlands about the inflexibility of the Dutch FA (KNVB) regarding the fixture list. As Ajax progressed through the Europa League, it became apparent that April would be a bumper month for the Amsterdammers with a whopping seven games in four weeks, including two ties against Schalke 04, home fixtures against arch-rivals Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar and an away fixture against PSV Eindhoven – clearly a month that would make or break their campaign.

It is common knowledge that sufficient rest and recuperation after matches is an absolutely key factor in ensuring that players stay physically and match fit. There is a plethora of research out there which suggests optimal periods of rest between matches. Granted – each footballer’s body is different and therefore it is not a case of ‘one rule fits all’, but what no one can argue against is that two full days’ rest after playing 120 minutes in a gruelling match is not the requisite amount of time to allow a body to recover.

Considering the above, it is absolutely staggering that the KNVB did not allow the PSV fixture to be moved back by a day in order to allow the Ajax players the rest they deserved. Dutch critics and fans alike always complain about the state of Dutch football and how clubs don’t figure in European competition these days, yet finally, when there is a team that does go far in Europe, they are provided no backing whatsoever by their own board. The loss against PSV shouldn’t wholly be blamed on the lack of time Ajax had to recover from the game against Schalke 04 (you could argue that Bosz could have rotated more players and possibly was slightly tactically naïve), but it certainly had a massive impact. Peter Bosz and Davy Klaassen made noises about how the match should be re-arranged, only for officials from the KNVB publicly stating that this could not be possible due to logistical issues (what they really mean is the financial loss that would have occurred had the game been rearranged). So this poses a key question. What is more important, the financial income a match generates, or a fair and level playing field that allows both teams to prepare fairly for a key (title-defining) fixture?