'Don't wait for something bad to happen': Bale warns greed could harm players

Gareth Bale has revealed to Sky News concerns football could become "too greedy", with players' mental and physical well-being endangered by growing fixture demands.

'don't wait for something bad to happen': bale warns greed could harm players

Gareth Bale

The former Wales captain, who won every major honour with Real Madrid, urged football authorities to act so "it doesn't take something bad to happen for that to change".

'don't wait for something bad to happen': bale warns greed could harm players

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

In his first notable interview since retiring in January 2023, Bale reflected on the highs and lows of an illustrious career, assessed the wider state of the game - including what he describes as the need to scrap VAR - and expressed admiration for Jude Bellingham's immediate impact at Madrid.

'don't wait for something bad to happen': bale warns greed could harm players

Jude Bellingham has been 'fantastic'. Pic: PA

Bale retired at 33 as a five-time Champions League winner with Madrid - becoming Britain's most successful male footballing export while still facing difficult times winning over fans in Spain.

The pressures he felt are now only growing as competitions add matches, much to the frustration of global players' union FIFPRO.

Bale said in an exclusive interview with Sky News: "The intensity and the quickness [are] only getting higher, and it's very difficult to continue playing at that high level.

"And then when the level comes down, you only get scrutinised."

He said that while "everybody understands that money ... plays a big part" and "more games means more money", players "want to play the right amount of games where you can cope with it without it being dangerous".

He added: "It's a very fine line, but hopefully everybody can come together and come to a right resolution for player welfare."

Some players now could be required for more than 85 matches in a season for club and country with FIFA introducing a new 32-team Club World Cup every four years and UEFA expanding the Champions League.

'don't wait for something bad to happen': bale warns greed could harm players

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

"The amount of fixtures is becoming more and more and it'll just become more demanding - and hopefully it doesn't take something bad to happen for that to change," Bale said.

"Looking after the players is an important thing. They're the ones who are growing the game, bringing the fans in to watch them."

Asked about hopes for football, Bale replied: "It's just about staying together as one and without certain things getting too greedy."

'VAR only made it worse'

One thing he certainly doesn't miss is video assistant referees delaying celebrations and ruling out goals.

Premier League clubs are set to vote next week on whether to scrap VAR.

VAR, Bale says, was "supposed to take away the controversy in football and it's only made it worse - I like the human error aspect".

"Things in slow motion look a lot worse than they do in real time. So, when you slow things down, a handball looks way more of a handball than it does in real action.

"So I don't like it. I would like to see it gone personally."

'Fantastic' Bellingham

Bale led Tottenham into the Champions League for the first time before an £85m move to Madrid in 2013.

The 14-time European champions are back in the final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium against Borussia Dortmund - a notable homecoming for Jude Bellingham after a wondrous first season in the Spanish capital.

The 20-year-old English star has already won LaLiga with 19 goals and six assists.

"At such a young age to be doing what he's doing is fantastic," Bale said. "It's great to see, it's refreshing and it's important."

It is especially important to get off to a good start at a club of such history and tradition like Real Madrid, he said.

"The intensity, the pressure that you can feel under...," said Bale.

"So, he had a great start so far. Obviously, they still have a big game to come and it'll be great for him to win a Champions League in his first season, that really settles the pressure and, hopefully, he can kick on from there."

Ups and downs in Madrid

Life in Madrid wasn't always easy for Bale, with jeers from his own fans despite being so integral on the big occasions with memorable goals like the scissor kick in the 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool.

"Of course, there's always going to be ups and downs," Bale said. "It's how you deal with those, how you bounce back, how your character comes out.

"There were obviously some great times, there were obviously some bad. But, I think normally the good outweighs the bad in the end."

Undoubtedly the biggest moments of pride came with his country - leading Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals and ending their 62-year World Cup exile in 2022.

"If you'd told me when I was a young kid that I would have the career I did, I probably would never have believed you," Bale said. "I feel like I overachieved".

"But I think as you get older, your goals change, your body changes, your talent kind of takes over, the hard work kicks in."

The caretaker's son who became Wales' greatest footballer

Bale 'very proud' after receiving MBE from Prince William

Now there is more time for golf and family.

"It's been really nice just to take a step back and have that pressure just relieved a bit," he said.

"So it's been good. Obviously I've spoken to people when they've retired. It's all about keeping stuff a little bit busy."

Climate concern

Bale also expressed concern over how football impacts climate change - and stressed the importance of not neglecting the environment while chasing sporting glory.

His message for collective action on sustainability features alongside those of other players, clubs and fans on a Pledge Ball made from recycled boots by Champions League sponsor Mastercard.

"It's difficult to make big changes," Bale said. "It's always about making those little changes."

Bale urged the media "to write about the good things, not the bad things", mentioning Lewis Hamilton as an example of somebody who is "doing a lot of good" and gets "unfair" treatment.

"He made such a massive effort to kind of change his environment and to do right," Bale said of the F1 driver.

"And then people forget all the hard work he's done and write maybe about just the small, I guess, negative where he drives an F1 car, which is obviously CO2. So, people need to realise that he's doing a lot of good and not just that little bit of not bad.

"So, I think for him to make such a big change was massive. But to get the scrutiny I guess he got was very unfair."

The sense is Bale also prefers life without scrutiny, away from the football spotlight with no desire to become a coach.

"I'm enjoying time, being at home with the family, spending more time with the kids," he said.

"Enjoying life, to be honest."


11 minutes ago

Oilers' goal to win Game 5 vs. Panthers, 'drag them back to Alberta'

11 minutes ago

ABS challenge system set to fully be used in Triple-A

11 minutes ago

Sky-Fever with Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark tops WNBA ratings

11 minutes ago

Assault on US avocado inspectors in Mexican state led to suspension of inspections

11 minutes ago

Judge in Trump classified documents case to hear validity of special counsel's appointment, gag order request

13 minutes ago

Lawmakers prepare to grill Boeing CEO David Calhoun in new hearing as planemaker flounders

13 minutes ago

“People Are Going To Turn Into A**holes”: ‘SNL’ Boss Lorne Michaels On Fame, Retirement & Cost-Cutting

13 minutes ago

‘American Vandal’ Creator Tony Yacenda To Direct Pilot Of Hulu Comedy Series ‘Chad Powers’

13 minutes ago

U.S. Secret Service agent robbed at gunpoint during Biden’s California trip

13 minutes ago

Panic buttons, lying to fans, valium: Céline Dion reveals heartbreaking struggles

16 minutes ago

NFL legend Michael Irvin reveals his wife of 34 years Sandy, 58, has early on-set Alzheimer's

17 minutes ago

Will women race in the F1? Champion driver Jessica Hawkins thinks so

17 minutes ago

Watch this touching exchange between Oskido and DJ Maphorisa

17 minutes ago

Protesters keep smashing up Conservative signs in one constituency - 'dozens missing every day'

18 minutes ago

Amy Adams wins major early acting award on Oscars trail ahead of “Nightbitch”

18 minutes ago

Toto Wolff highlights potential Mercedes W15 ‘weakness’ ahead of Spanish Grand Prix

18 minutes ago

Miami Dolphins waive wide receiver to make room for defensive lineman

18 minutes ago

John Lewis 'elegant' polka dot dress that looks like Kate Middleton's Ascot midi

18 minutes ago

Barcelona Transfer News: Not Lamine Yamal or Pau Cubarsi! Noah Darvich is the €1bn wonderkid to benefit from Hansi Flick

18 minutes ago

Arsenal transfer news: Arteta convinces out-of-favour Gunners goalkeeper to stay

18 minutes ago

New Commanders RB Austin Ekeler says there was a 'misalignment' with Chargers

18 minutes ago

Colorado Supreme Court to hear arguments in transgender cake case

18 minutes ago

NSW budget focuses on the housing crisis, but some property owners may have to pay

18 minutes ago

Royal Ascot 2024: scrutiny falls on meeting with racing at crossroads

18 minutes ago

Warhammer 40K meets D&D in new series starring former Games Workshop presenters

18 minutes ago

Coalition set to announce long-awaited nuclear details

18 minutes ago

“Hit Man ”star Adria Arjona reflects on reinvention and role playing with Glen Powell

18 minutes ago

The U.S. economy doesn’t need interest rate cuts

21 minutes ago

Trump tax breaks are set to expire after 2025. Here's what advisors are telling their clients

23 minutes ago

WNBA star Sophie Cunningham goes viral after wowing fans with 'before and during' photos

24 minutes ago

Evidence is mounting that the American shopper is cutting back

24 minutes ago

The Amazing Potential Of Office REITs

24 minutes ago

ANC, DA mum over ‘hands-off Phala Phala’ deal as part of GNU

25 minutes ago

Albanian ex-president banned from UK over alleged links to crime

25 minutes ago

Bleacher Report says Saints have given out two of the worst contracts in the NFL

25 minutes ago

Sam Bennett might be the new golfer of the people, packing Zyns from random fans at the U.S. Open

25 minutes ago

A Jordan Spieth bathroom emergency led to a PGA Tour rule change on disqualifications

25 minutes ago

Pay TV is in so much trouble that even its one bright spot is dimming

25 minutes ago

Kelowna construction site death under investigation

25 minutes ago

Watch Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun testify before Senate panel on whistleblower allegations