The lower the league, the harder working the footballer – research by Sunderland sports scientists

Dr Paul Bradley
Dr Paul Bradley
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MILLIONS of pounds is splashed out on elite footballers, but Wearside researchers claim lower level players give more of a run for their money.

For years, players in the top tier of English football have been paid much higher wages compared to those in the Championship and League One, but researchers at the University of Sunderland have found it is those in the lower leagues who are covering a greater distance at a higher intensity.

Research published in the journal Human Movement Science analysed 300 players in the English Premier League, Championship and League One and it is the first time research has looked at the match performance across all three divisions.

The research found that those in League One ran a lot further at a higher intensity than those in the Championship.

The same was true when Championship players were compared to those in the Premier League.

However, academics did find that those playing in the Premier League performed a greater number of passes and successful passes. They also received the ball more often and had more touches of the ball than those in the Championship and League One.

The research could back up the belief that players at a higher standard have a far higher level of technical skill, and do not use the long ball tactic of “kick and rush”.

Additionally, the research found that when players were relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, they began to run more distance at a higher intensity. However, when players moved in the opposite direction they didn’t change the levels of running and intensity.

Dr Paul Bradley, senior lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Sunderland, said: “This research highlights that the long ball game does make you work harder and that the context of the game dictates how each individual or team works.

“Some of the results were quite surprising as we expected there would be differences in the technical areas between the leagues, but not the physical nature.”