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How loan moves can impact on footballers’ match performance

University of Gloucestershire has carried out the first study of its kind to examine the stress felt by male professional footballers when they are loaned out to play for other teams and the impact of that on performance.

Across professional football, including in the Premier League, a growing number of players may experience a loan move – when a footballer is temporarily transferred to play for another club but is still registered as a contracted player to their respective ‘parent’ club.

Among the factors identified by previous studies that can impact wellbeing and match performance while a player is on loan are insufficient time for players to adapt to an unfamiliar style of play and the lack of game time, which can affect fitness.

A new study led by the University’s Dr Sofie Kent, in collaboration with Dr Rich Neil from Cardiff University and Dr Robert Morris from the University of Stirling, has highlighted previously unidentified factors.

Following the study – entitled Coping with the loan transition in professional association football – involving Premier League, Championship and League One footballers, these factors include:

From the same 11 players, the study identified key factors that would help players adapt to life more effectively at their loan club, including goal setting by their parent club to increase motivation; a drive to relationship-building with new team-mates; personally reflecting on past footballing accomplishments to maintain confidence; support from sport science staff at their parent club to provide feedback on match performance.

Dr Kent, Lecturer in Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, said: “This is the first study to present a qualitative examination of the psychological experiences of stress during the loan transition within professional male football.

“Our research has been able to capture previously unidentified factors perceived by players that may have an impact on their wellbeing and their ability to perform well at their loan club.

“Clubs are advised to provide players with resources to support them before and during the loan period, such as developing player awareness of the benefits of the loan, structured goal-setting and objectives, and knowledge of the loan club and league, to successfully confront any stress and anxiety associated with the transition.”

Dr Kent added: “This study sought to explore the loan transition experience of male professional football players, which in turn may not be directly applicable to UK female football.

“Future research should seek to explore the loan transition within female football and offer practical recommendations.”