I have never been in favour of clubs making players do a pre-preseason.
I always felt that players deserve their time off and shouldn’t spend December having to go to the gym every second day because of club orders, especially when only a small few clubs in Ireland pay their players during the off-season.
Fair enough, clubs might have a case for dragging their players in over the holidays when they are paying them a wage, but for clubs that aren’t, I used to believe that that was ‘cheeky’ of the club.
Of course, the player has every right not to turn up to pre-preseason sessions because although they have a contract with the club for the forthcoming season, that players will technically be out of contract during the off-season, and can do what they like.
However, were the player not to turn up, it’s more than likely they will be spoken to harshly by their manager, even though the player is entitled to avoid pre-preseason if he plays for a club that doesn’t pay during the off-season.
With some clubs that’s strategy is not to pay during the off-season, there will be exceptions to the rules with certain players.
Those players tend to be new signings. It’s hard for a manager to persuade a player to join a club, by asking them to work for a number of weeks for free.
The manager has to offer some sort of incentive for the player to join the club for the pre-preseason, otherwise, the player will just wait until January to sign for the club, and that could open up the opportunity for other clubs to sign the player.
The manager might come to a discrete agreement with the player, to pay him a one-off lump sum of money, or another way of describing it would be; a signing-on fee, to satisfy the player.
The player will be told to keep this agreement secret, especially from his new teammates as they will be angered to hear that someone is getting paid when they aren’t. Usually though this information does leak one way or another, but by then, other new signings would have joined and got a similar deal, and it’s accepted amongst the group.
Existing players playing for the club, who are from different countries or counties, might also get an added benefit for participating in pre-preseason.
The manager probably will allow them several days off, where the trust is placed on the player to work by themselves rather than join the group. When required to travel they may be paid, otherwise those players aren’t going to be happy spending the festive season travelling up and down the country.
Not only will it cost the players money in travel expenses, but it also reduces their chances of finding a different job during the off-season to help them fill the gap without an income from football.
Many players work in a different industry during the off-season. Some are too proud to claim social welfare, and they need some sort of income for those eight to 10 weeks.
Having to travel up and down the country, and not being available to work a number of days because of this, is going to hinder them finding a job. Yes, they do have the comfort of knowing they will be getting paid again when preseason resumes in January, but December is a very expensive month for any household, and players, especially those with families to support, have to find work away from football to provide for their loved ones.
For the past two years, the temptation for players to go out over the Christmas period was reduced due to Covid restrictions.
It was much easier for players to stay professional over the festive period, by being mindful of what they ate and drank.
The lure of going out with their friends or family will be more appealing this year, probably more than any previous year because of the two previous years with Covid.
Social media doesn’t help players because seeing friends out celebrating the festive season, while they remain in, does make players question why they should lock themselves away, when they aren’t even being paid for it.
Managers will be more concerned about players looking after themselves this off-season, and might even make more appearances at the pre-preseason sessions (which a lot of managers don’t do) to keep a more watchful eye on those they will be relying on in the months ahead.