Premier League considers winter break: What needs to be moved?
A winter break won’t be approved for at least another 18 months but it’s being discussed. Premier League clubs appear to be in favour of the move. Managers and players are professionals. We tend to forget they are also human beings. While football fans are ignoring their families over the holidays to catch a holiday fixture, the athletes and coaches can't be with theirs. As well, there is so little time for players to recover. Even the summer breaks are becoming shorter and shorter. We credit advanced coaching methods, sports science, and analytics with bringing players into their prime sooner. Has anyone considered the older, more experienced players are simply running on empty?
Money talks, fans need to walk
Money ruling the game is already common knowledge. Broadcasting fees and overseas marketing are marginalising the supporters in the stands. Evidence the confusion over play stoppages when VAR is in use. Worse, ticket prices increase year upon year. Fans in England pay the most for tickets per game on average. Even in the Championship and League One, tickets are sold in excess of £30. Corporate interests can afford the prices. Families cannot. Fans are beginning to put aside club rivalries to combine forces. More need to let their voices be heard.
The simplest solution is for the tournament to be scrapped. Among UEFA's top five competitions, only England and France have two domestic cup competitions. But there is a winter break across the Channel.
It's essentially a sponsorship opportunity. The Carabao Cup, as it's currently known, features the 92 sides in the Football League, with Premier League sides joining in late. The financial value to clubs is nominal for the amount of games required and additional stress it puts on players. Nor does the competition possess the FA Cup's romance. There aren't enough upsets to generate similar interest. In the last 15 years, only three winners have come from outside the Premier League top eight..
The game's oldest competition is steeped in tradition, but it's also serving as a cutting edge competition by experimenting with VAR and goalline technology. The prestige of the FA Cup will forever remain, as will the romance. No one wants to see it go. That said, top clubs desperate for some respite are increasingly fielding inferior lineups to rest their regulars. Something must be done before the FA Cup becomes nothing more than a quaint distraction.
Relief for all involved
Pep Guardiola recently remarked the schedule was “killing his players." Jose Mourinho suggested the lack of a break hampers Premier League sides' European prospects.
While every other competition has taken two or more weeks off to recover, England's top clubs cram four games into eight or nine days from December 23 through January 3. There are League Cup matches just prior, FA Cup ones immediately after. If a top club makes a deep cup run(s), or must replay an FA Cup match, it may have a league game postponed. Now its late-season fixture list is also clogged.
Managers must prioritise competitions. Even so, injury rates rise. The prospect of 12 points being on offer in a decidedly short span is great fun for fans. Not so much, however, when the player for whom your club just paid tens of millions in the summer is lost to a ligament or back problem. If it's two, three, or more players, it can affect the side much longer. Arsenal typify this, with their season generally falling apart in February/March, but how many times did Sir Alex Ferguson end up playing January and February with players like Michael Carrick, John O'Shea, and Ryan Giggs dropping back to deputise at centre half?
How long might a break be?
The Premier League is renowned for being one as the only elite competition to play through the new year. For the fans, this shouldn’t change. But a near three week break is feasible from 2nd Jan to 23rd January. This mid-season has worked wonders for European sides in the past decade.
In the five years between 2005 and 2009, England was represented in each final. In the interim, there have been just two English finalists. Since Chelsea’s Munich triumph in Munich, Premier League sides have made the semis just twice. Critics marvel that the league can't exploit its financial advantage. Perhaps they could if the players were just given a break.