Football has been warned it is “sleepwalking into a disaster” amid an escalating player welfare row as 100-minute matches arrive in the Premier League.

Maheta Molango, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, believes “crazy” demands are also worsening the sport’s sleeping pills crisis.

Referees in competitions worldwide must now follow instruction from the game’s lawmakers to more accurately measure time lost to stoppages.

However, amid a mounting outcry this week from players, research underlines how some of England’s finest young talents were already being pushed to the brink by packed schedules. Twenty-year-old Jude Bellingham, according to FifPro, has played more competitive minutes (15,000) than Michael Owen, Frank Lampard and David Beckham combined by the same age.

The so-called 100 minute approach was first adopted at the World Cup in Qatar last year where by and large it was positively received. Supporters of the new regulations point out Premier League average times were already at 98 minutes last season. However, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester United defender Raphael Varane spoke out this week against the increased toll on players. Molango added on Tuesday that he had heard from a “significant number” of other players since Sunday’s Community Shield.

“We are sleepwalking into a disaster,” he said. “I don’t want my kids choosing a different sport because the sport that I loved is just not the one that they are now experiencing.”

Molango says matters will get even worse when European club competitions expand from 2024-25 and the 32-team Fifa Club World Cup kicks off at the end of the same campaign. “It’s only the start of the problem because by next year, when we open the new cycle, it’s gonna be absolutely crazy,” he added.

Figures released by the English Football League indicated that the average ball-in-play time for the weekend’s matches was 58 minutes, up from 50 last season, while added time signalled by the fourth official increased by 5.9 minutes on average.

However, while the increased toll on players in only incremental each match, Fifpro, the global union, had already warned that players are “at risk” of burnout from the packed calendar. A total 43 per cent of surveyed World Cup players last winter said they “experienced extreme or increased mental fatigue”.

In that context, Molango pointed to players such as Dele Alli and Chris Kirkland reporting the “massive problem” of addiction in football.

“People then say ‘let’s talk about the sleeping pills the players take’ but this is a result of that,” Molango said of the pressures on players.

“If I play an international game on the Thursday in Bolivia and then I play at Birmingham on Saturday, how do I do that? I need to travel for 24 hours, get some sleep somehow and then play on the Saturday. If I do that in the executive lounge I’m knackered. Imagine if you have to turn up and pay 90 minutes.”

Following the directive from Ifab, the footballing lawmaker, referees are under orders to collectively “enhance the amount of time the ball is in play in the forthcoming campaign”. As a result, goals and subsequent celebrations, substitutions, injuries and treatment time, penalties (from moment of offence to the whistle for the penalty kick) and red cards will all be added on to playing time after 90 minutes.

However, bookings could increase as English officials move to reduce timewasting. A “more robust approach to dealing with clear/deliberate actions that are impactful in delaying the restart of play,” was detailed this week by the EFL.

Varane retired from international football with France at the age of 29 earlier this year, likening the demands of the top-level game to being in a washing machine. He said this week that the new measures to increase minutes were “damaging” alongside an already-packed schedule of matches.

Molango believes other players will feel they have no option but to follow Varane’s lead in quitting international football. “What (Varane) is saying is, ‘this is not sustainable’,” he added.

“It’s getting to a stage where it’s not about us telling them to take action. It is that they want to take it themselves. So what we’re saying to the authorities is that you’re bringing this to an extreme…. It’s not sustainable, it’s not manageable and if you don’t do something we’re going to be in trouble.”

“And if you add those minutes, then by Christmas you have played five more games on top of the 70 you already play.”

Broadcasters are understood to have held meetings with footballing authorities to reassure themselves over the new plans. Sources close to BBC and Sky say there are few worries about potential impacts on scheduling from longer matches, however.