Hodgson WAGs decision 'smart move'

Braintree and Witham Times: Roy Hodgson will not ban players from making their own arrangements for their families to travel to the World Cup Roy Hodgson will not ban players from making their own arrangements for their families to travel to the World Cup

England boss Roy Hodgson's decision to let his players decide whether to take their wives, families and girlfriends on their travels this summer is a "smart move", experts have said.

Hodgson has changed his plans over an official trip for the WAGs - wives and girlfriends - to the World Cup warm-up camp in Miami at the start of June.

It had been planned that time would be set aside for the WAGs after the first friendly against Ecuador on June 4, but it has emerged that the players will instead fly to Miami on June 1, a day later than originally planned - with the extra day at home being reserved for their families.

The Football Association's original plan was to organise a visit for the families to Florida, but it is understood that will now not take place.

The timetable will now see England play Peru at Wembley on May 30, have the following day with their families, and join up again with the squad on June 1 to fly to Miami.

But Hodgson will not ban players from making their own arrangements for their families or partners to travel to Miami or after that to Brazil, although any time spent together will have to fit in with training and match schedules, and other England duties.

Experts said that putting the decision in the hands of the players was a wise move.

Professor Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University, said: "He is giving them discretion. What you're saying is you're an adult, you make the decision for what is right for you and your family.

"It's adult to adult rather than adult to child. If you say you can't bring your family, you're treating them like kids, you're not involving them in decisions they need to take as adults."

"Forget putting a blanket 'you can't bring them'. You would be wrong to say that because some of them will need the social support of their family."

He said people in other high-pressure environments would not be expected to deprive themselves of the support of their loved ones.

"We all have families. When we have a big deal at work does a corporate lawyer, accountant or senior manager say, 'well that's it, I'm not seeing my family for the next three days while I'm doing this job'?

"It's a game of football, it's not a game of life. Sport is a job like any other job."

Dr David Fletcher, senior lecturer in sport and performance psychology at Loughborough University, said : " This idea of social support is really important in helping athletes cope with pressure at a high level.

"We tend to look for support from different people depending on what we need that support for.

"They might speak to coaches or managers about technical and tactical aspects of their performance, but in terms of handling some of the pressure that's involved they may not always feel comfortable going to staff members.

"Having family and friends is really important and can't be underestimated."

He said i t was a "smart move" to allow players to make decisions about having families at the tournament.

"One of the things we know from stress management literature is that if people are given responsibility and involvement in their preparations, not just in sport but for anybody in the working environment, if you're allowed input into decisions then that goes down really well, and athletes are no exception.

"Having that ability to make a decision on what is appropriate is a smart move. These players deal with a lot of media attention over the year so they are adult enough."

But he added: "One of the things Roy will have to do here is to establish ground rules. Where this can go wrong is that WAGs can take too much media attention away. It's important they keep a low profile."

The issue of WAGs has been controversial since the 2006 World Cup in Germany, with criticism that high-profile antics of players' loved ones at the Baden Baden base proved a distraction for the team.

In the 2010 tournament in South Africa, former England manager Fabio Capello restricted the time that players could spend with their families.

There will be two friendlies in Florida, the second against Honduras on June 7, before England fly to their World Cup base in Rio de Janeiro ahead of their first match against Italy in Manaus on June 14.

Wayne Rooney's wife Coleen is among the most prominent of the England WAGs.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart's girlfriend Kimberly Crew, defender Phil Jones's partner Kaya Hall and midfielder Frank Lampard's television presenter fiancee Christine Bleakley could all take advantage of being allowed to spend time with their partners ahead of the World Cup.

But captain Steven Gerrard's model wife, Alex, and their three daughters, will not be making the trip across the Atlantic.

Gerrard did not invite his family to South Africa for the last World Cup, and revealed last month that he has made the same decision for Brazil.

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