With Britain finally seeing the back of the “Beast of the East” – a Siberian cold snap that has brought snow, ice and plummeting temperatures to the country, many sporting fixtures were postponed and cancelled amid the artic conditions.
So what better time than the long awaited proposals to introduce a winter break to the football season – with the Premier League, English Football League and the FA in talks to implement the inaugural hiatus for the 2019-20 season. Should the plans come to fruition, it will see the English top flight and lower divisions finally follow in the footsteps of our German, Italian, Spanish and French counterparts. It’s no co-incidence that the last three World Cup winners, Italy (2006), Spain (2010) and Germany (2014) all have two-to-three weeks breathers in the middle of their club seasons. England is the only one of Europe’s major leagues not to have a winter break, so is it really a surprise, therefore, that the England national team are so far behind the rest of the continent?
By the time a World Cup or European Championships roll around every two years, our exhausted players – frazzled by ten months of non-stop football with no time to rest – are shot to pieces. It’s been argued for years that the England team look jaded at major tournaments compared to those countries mentioned above with a mid-season gap. But the only proof will be at the next Euros in two years time. Whilst this is not the only factor attributed to England’s long list of numerous collective failures, the demands of the unrelenting domestic schedule must have a detrimental effect on the team. An England side that go into a major finals physically and mentally sharper and stronger will go some way towards turning around our chronically underwhelming record.
The frantic festive fixture schedule is the highlight of the football calendar for many and those games will be unaffected by a potential change. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said in January the lack of a break was “killing” the players and United counterpart Jose Mourinho said that English clubs are being hampered in the Champions League as a result of their punishing schedules.
The idea is for the first annual two-week break to be scheduled for the early part February during the 2019-20 campaign, before the resumption of European fixtures. As a consequence, the fifth round of the FA Cup would take place in midweek, with no replays and ties played to a finish on the night. Premier League clubs would have a least 13 days without a match. The break would be staggered, with five top flight ties on one weekend and five on another. In contrast to other leagues, the football won’t stop completely, rather just watered down and thinned out.
The Football League has been involved in the talks, but a 46-game league season doesn’t allow for a break so the Championship, League One and League Two will continue as they are.