Who's looking after welfare of players... and managers?

Joseph Bulmer

Everyone in football realised that a European Super League would have had a very divisive effect but since the whole idea fell apart in those incredible few days, there does seem to be a desire for cooperation and 'togetherness' across the game.

I'm all in favour of that, and I can think of two areas straight away where it hasn't happened for a long time.

They are player welfare and refereeing.

I don't think the authorities have done nearly enough talking to us, the playing side of the game, before they make decisions on new rules and regulations.

First, on player welfare and the size of squads, the rules aren't 'saving the game' or helping at all.

Clubs at all levels are having to play an unbelievable amount of matches to get through this season, and it's producing injuries which have hit us hard at Plainmoor.

At Premier League and EFL level, they are allowed nine and seven-man benches, with five and four subs - fair enough.

But in the National League, where we've been under the same pressures and we're now in the middle of nine games in a month, we only have benches of five and three subs.

Having only three subs is ridiculous.

I would love to make more changes for two reasons - to lessen the risk of injuries to the starters and to give more chance to our younger players.

But one minute, they say they want more youngsters on the bench, the next they limit the numbers to do it.

Just because you're allowed bigger benches and more subs, it doesn't mean you have them or use them.

But I don't know who asked for these rules, or who fought for them.

Think of this - the team that goes up from the National League to League Two through the play-offs will finish this season with the final on June 19 and then have to be ready to start the next EFL season on August 7.

We'd take it, of course, if that happens to us! But it would give the play-off winners no real time to rest properly and have long enough to prepare for the new season in the EFL.

I know this has been an unprecedented year for everyone, not just for football, but who's looking after the welfare of players and even managers in all this?

Nobody asks us. If they had talked to the managers, and they only need to have gone to three or four because we all feel the same, we might have helped them come up with answers to what is a serious problem.

Second, on refereeing, we've all seen new rules brought in over the years, and I've lost count of the number of meetings I've been to where the referees tell us what the new guidelines are.

And year after year they tell us how referees are getting better and better marks, and how great the communication between them and the clubs and managers is. No way!

We all know what a tough job it is. There are some good refs around, I always try to say so even when we've lost and I admire how restrained the refs are and how they get on with the job despite all the stick they get, even from the touchline.

But when the referees' bodies are drawing up new rule changes, which is going to happen as the game evolves, why don't they talk to us first? We're the people who have to handle the sharp end of it.

What I'm saying is - we could actually help them to get it right, which is what everyone - referees, players, managers, fans - really want.

But I've written countless letters to the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB) in my early manager days, and got no real answer to the questions, just a standard reply.

I felt quite strongly about an issue at one of our games last month, so I wrote to them for the first time in recent years, explaining calmly and politely how we saw it and asking them to explain their thinking, along with a video.

This time, so far at least, I've haven't had a reply.

Stay safe everyone!