Every major football league in Europe gives their players a break midway through the season. Every league except England, that is.
But maybe not for long. Today the BBC is reporting that there is a proposal in the works that would see the Premier League pause during the month of January. The month of January was chosen in order to preserve the “traditional festive football schedule” and if adopted would likely not begin until a new television rights deal is signed in 2019.
Here’s what the Premier League had to say in a statement:
“The Premier League has been in discussions with the FA and EFL for several months regarding the challenges of the increasingly congested English football calendar and ways in which we can work together to ease fixture congestion while also giving players a mid-season break.
“Provided space can be found in the calendar, we are open to this in principle and will continue constructive discussions with our football stakeholders to seek a workable solution.”
The idea of a winter break in English football has been talked about for years. The top leagues in Spain, Italy, Germany, and France all take one, and it allows players to recharge their batteries a bit midway through a grueling football season, and it helps avoid fatigue and injury. The players deserve it, and taking off the month of January would also mean that there would be no football during what is usually the coldest month of the year.
But when the league talks about easing fixture congestion, I don’t see how including a month off would do that, unless they were to consider pushing the Premier League schedule possibly as late as into June and/or starting the season even earlier. Even doing that doesn’t really alleviate fixture congestion — there would still be the usual battery of league matches, domestic and international cup ties, and international friendlies that would all need to be played.
It also doesn’t help al all with the gauntlet that is the holiday fixture calendar, where clubs frequently play matches with just 48 hours of rest and which the league specifically mentions preserving. It just gives the players a break in the middle of it all before throwing them back into the fire.
I’m all for a mid-season break, and I think it’s high time that the Premier League consider implementing one, but I think the only way to create one and prevent players from just having a shorter summer break to compensate would be to actually remove fixtures from the calendar. One idea would involve eliminating one or both of the League or FA Cups — doing so would eliminate at least two matches out of every Premier League club’s schedule, and usually more than that. The extra fixture dates could be used for league games, or not replaced at all to add extra space in the schedule.
The Premier League’s announcement is a step in the right direction but without further details we don’t yet know if this will be meaningful progress or just re-arranging what is already an overcrowded fixture schedule.