Gareth Bale warns greed could harm footballer welfare as matches pile up – and backs calls to scrap VAR | UK News

Gareth Bale has unveiled concerns to Sky News that football could become “excessively greedy,” with athletes’ mental and physical health jeopardized by increasing fixture demands. The former Wales skipper, who secured every major accolade with Real Madrid, urged football regulators to intervene so that “it doesn’t require a tragedy for change to occur.”
In his first significant interview since retiring in January 2023, Bale reminisced on the peaks and troughs of a distinguished career, examined the broader state of the sport – including what he terms as the necessity to eliminate VAR – and lauded Jude Bellingham’s immediate influence at Madrid.

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Bale on why he disapproves of VAR

Bale retired at 33 as a five-time Champions League champion with Madrid – becoming Britain’s most successful male footballing export while still grappling with tough times winning over supporters in Spain. The pressures he experienced are now only increasing as tournaments add fixtures, much to the dismay of the worldwide players’ union FIFPRO.
Bale stated in an exclusive conversation with Sky News: “The intensity and swiftness [are] only escalating, and it’s immensely tough to sustain playing at that pinnacle level.”And then when the level diminishes, you only face more scrutiny.”He noted that while “everyone understands that money … has a major role” and “more games equate to more money,” players “desire to play an adequate number of matches where you can manage without it becoming hazardous.”He added: “It’s a delicate balance, but hopefully everyone can unite and reach a proper solution for player welfare.”

Gareth Bale lifting the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid. Pic: PA

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Gareth Bale lifting the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid in 2018. Pic: PA

Certain players now might be required for over 85 matches in a season for both club and nation, with FIFA introducing a new 32-team Club World Cup every four years and UEFA expanding the Champions League.”The number of fixtures is increasing continuously and it’ll only get more grueling – and hopefully it doesn’t take a misfortune to prompt change,” Bale stated.”Taking care of the players is an essential aspect. They’re the ones promoting the sport, drawing fans to watch them.”When asked about hopes for football, Bale responded: “It’s all about staying unified and ensuring things don’t get excessively greedy.”‘VAR only exacerbated the issues’One element he certainly doesn’t yearn for is video assistant referees delaying celebrations and disallowing goals. Premier League clubs are set to vote next week on whether to abolish VAR.VAR, Bale argues, was “intended to eliminate controversy in football but only exacerbated it – I appreciate the human error factor.””Incidents in slow motion appear significantly worse than they do in real-time. So, when you decelerate the footage, a handball seems much more evident than in actual play.”Thus, I dislike it. Personally, I would prefer to see it eliminated.”‘Incredible’ BellinghamBale led Tottenham into the Champions League for the first time before an £85m transfer to Madrid in 2013.

Jude Bellingham has been 'fantastic'. Pic: PA

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Jude Bellingham has been ‘fantastic’. Pic: PA

The 14-time European champions are back in the final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium against Borussia Dortmund – a significant homecoming for Jude Bellingham after a remarkable debut season in the Spanish capital. The 20-year-old English star has already secured LaLiga with 19 goals and six assists.”At such a tender age to be accomplishing what he’s doing is incredible,” Bale said. “It’s wonderful to observe, refreshing and significant.”It is particularly crucial to get off to a good start at a club of such repute and heritage like Real Madrid, he remarked.”The intensity, the pressure that you can feel under…,” expressed Bale.”So, he has had an excellent start so far. Obviously, they still have a major match ahead and it would be great for him to clinch a Champions League in his debut season, that really eases the pressure and, hopefully, he can progress from there.”Highs and lows in MadridLife in Madrid wasn’t always smooth for Bale, with boos from his own fans despite being so pivotal in key moments with unforgettable goals like the scissor kick in the 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool.

Gareth Bale scoring a spectacular overhead kick against Liverpool. Pic PA

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Gareth Bale scoring a spectacular overhead kick against Liverpool. Pic PA

“Of course, there will always be highs and lows,” Bale mentioned. “It’s about managing those, how you rebound, how your character emerges.”There were certainly some fantastic times, and undoubtedly some rough patches. But, I believe usually the good prevails over the bad in the end.”Undoubtedly the most prideful moments came with his national team – leading Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals and breaking their 62-yearWorld Cup hiatus in 2022.”If you’d told me during my childhood that I would have the career I did, I likely wouldn’t have believed you,” Bale mentioned. “I feel as though I exceeded expectations”.”However, as you age, your ambitions shift, your physique alters, your aptitude kind of prevails, and the diligence sets in.”Learn more:The caretaker’s child who emerged as Wales’ greatest footballerBale ‘extremely proud’ after receiving MBE from Prince WilliamNow there is ample time for golf and loved ones.”It’s been truly pleasant just to step back and have that pressure eased a bit,” he stated.”So it’s been beneficial. Naturally, I’ve spoken to individuals who have retired. It’s all about staying somewhat occupied.”Environmental concernBale additionally voiced apprehension about how football affects climate change – and emphasized the necessity of not overlooking the environment in pursuit of athletic triumph.His message advocating for collective action on sustainability is featured alongside those of other athletes, clubs, and fans on a Pledge Ball crafted from recycled boots by Champions League sponsor Mastercard.

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“It’s challenging to make substantial changes,” Bale expressed. “It’s always about making those small adjustments.”Bale urged the media “to focus on the positive things, not the negative things”, citing Lewis Hamilton as an example of someone who is “doing a lot of good” and receives “unjust” treatment.”He made an enormous effort to kind of alter his surroundings and to do right,” Bale said of the F1 racer.”And then people overlook all the hard work he’s accomplished and write maybe about just the minor, I suppose, negative aspect where he drives an F1 car, which is inherently CO2. So, people need to understand that he’s doing a lot of good and not just that small bit of not bad.”So, I think for him to make such a considerable change was significant. But to receive the criticism I suppose he received was very unjust.”

The impression is Bale also favors life without scrutiny, away from the football limelight with no intent to become a coach.”I’m appreciating time, being at home with the family, spending more moments with the kids,” he shared.”Enjoying life, to be truthful.”

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