As the traditional busy winter schedule kicks in, it is usually around this time of year that the same old debate about the introduction of a winter break surfaces. And this year is no different, as Arsene Wenger has become the first manager of the season to weigh into the debate. He won’t be the last.
It is a scenario he is very much in favour of, and it is clearly something he has given careful consideration over as he has proposed the possibility of the season beginning in January, following a similar set up to that seen in both America and China.
A change of this scale would certainly be a radical one and would need to be given serious consideration by those with the powers of making such decisions. Wenger’s reasoning behind this opinion is simple. He argues that “you would play during the summer period in the best period for football.”
The idea of a complete change to the footballing calendar is something that has rarely been mentioned by managers in the past so it is unclear whether this is an option that is favourable by many. In reality, it isn’t clear what effect this change would actually bring about.
With clubs still being required to play the same number of fixtures, and with the inclusion of the months of January and February, a time of year when the weather can still cause problems to the schedule, this change seems a little unnecessary and almost irrelevant.
Much time and resources would be needed to implement the change, and in truth, there seems little value in altering the footballing calendar. Instead, a winter break still seems the most logical idea in terms of giving footballers a break. There are arguments both for and against the introduction of a winter break into the English game.
Presently in England, the Christmas period is notoriously congested, with clubs playing four fixtures over an eight or nine day period far from uncommon sight. Games are usually played on Boxing Day and New Years Day, in conjunction with any weekend dates that fall in between, resulting in a hectic period that is adored by fans but despised by managers.
This schedule is in stark contrast to Europe where, instead of piling the games up, the majority of leagues on the continent have a short break to allow players to refresh. Now, it is important to remember that Europe suffers far more severe and extreme weather than we do in this country, so in many respects, the need for a winter break is more out of necessity than a luxury.
Nevertheless, it is believed that this short break reduces the risk of player burn out at the conclusion of the season, and it also allows clubs a short pause to re-assess and re-evaluate their positions.
Whilst benefiting the domestic game, there is also an argument that it improves the national sides game too. When the time arrives for major international tournaments in the summer months, those players who have had the luxury of a mid season break are in far better shape than those who have arrived straight of the back of a grueling nine month season with breaks kept to a minimum. Taking England’s performances at past tournaments into consideration, it is an assessment that does appear to carry some form of accuracy.
But is a winter break what the fans want? It seems obvious to say, but fans love their football, and any sort of break is considered a negative. The early international breaks that blight the season just as it is getting into full flow are bad enough, so another break would create more of a stop-start feel to the campaign.
It is hard to believe that footballers suffer to the extent that a break is desperately needed, so for once why don’t the authorities let the fans decide in a key issue like this? Many fans are, rightly, feeling increasingly disillusioned with football, as they feel that in an industry dominated by money and greed, the every day football fan is being overlooked and that their opinions matter little in the grand scheme of things.
By giving fans some sort of control, it would keep them onside and allow for greater connectivity between supporter and their clubs. After all, it is the fans who folk out money each week to see their side play, so surely it is only right that their opinions are taken into account if the debate over a winter break materialises into something more than mere speculation.