For a number of years now there have been calls from the certain sections of the media for the introduction of a winter break in an attempt to boost the performance of the national team at major championships.
Whilst Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have advocated the introduction of a mid-season break for some time, the Premier League and the FA have been slow on the uptake of proposing the introduction of a change to the fixture list.
However, reports in the Manchester Evening News this week suggest that Manchester United’s chief executive David Gill has laid out proposal to introduce a mid season break to the Premier League.
Gill’s plans would split the fixture list in half, giving 10 teams a break over Christmas and the other 10 would stop playing over New Year.
Whilst these proposals help to deal with the issue of how to fit a winter break into the fixture list whilst maintaining traditional the Boxing Day and New Years’ Day fixtures (two days which are important in terms of the Premier League’s overseas television revenue) they still provoke the questions of where the extra fixture will fit into the calendar and whether an extra week is sufficient enough of a break to make a difference come the end of the season.
Any expansion to the proposal would require careful consideration, but the most notably wasted weeks of the season come in August, November and February when the international friendly break takes place.
In theory, the eradication of these fixtures would allow for the Premier League to introduce a winter break, by freeing up the fixture list for an additional two or three games each side of New Year.
In practice, the likelihood of FIFA cancelling these three international friendly breaks for the benefit of the English Premier League is on par with the likelihood that Syria England will be awarded the 2026 World Cup.
However boycotting these dates in favour of an extended winter break may be a brave, yet shrewd move by the English FA.
Whilst the ‘Internationalised’ nature of modern football would probably make this an unpopular move amongst clubs, who could potentially be forced to field reserve team players during Premier League matches whilst their foreign stars are on international duty, it would pave the way for a mid-season break.
Alternatively, scrapping international friendlies in favour of domestic fixtures could provide an earlier finish to the season, allowing players more time to recuperate, train and prepare before summer international tournaments.
Should it prove successful then other countries may follow suite and these dates will naturally be abandoned by the top footballing nations, which will allow the introduction of a winter break without it having any significant detriment to either the club or international game.
On the other hand, why should we have a winter break at all? Whilst managers complain that the hectic fixture schedule around Christmas is likely cause their sides’ injury worries during March and April, it is the lottery of suspensions and injuries in the latter stages of the season that helps to make the Premier League one of the most exciting and most unpredictable leagues in the world.