If it can be scrapped now, during one of the toughest seasons in living memory, is a Premier League winter break really needed at all?
Last year, the Premier League announced that it was introducing a ‘mid-season player break’ in February so that players could have 13 days off to refuel following the congested festive fixtures. However, that plan has essentially been scrapped this season, which is arguably, certainly from a health perspective, the hardest campaign that players have ever had to endure. So, it begs the question, is a winter break really necessary?
Does the Premier League Really Need a Winter Break?
The Current Predicament
Last season, each Premier League team had one weekend’s rest and a full midweek’s rest in February. This year, the delayed start to the season, due to complications arising from the outbreak of coronavirus, has led to greater fixture congestion than usual, so the powers in charge have decided that there is not enough time to fit the season in as planned if such a break were to take place. With the European Championships taking place in the summer, finishing the season later than scheduled is simply not an option.
As a result, the alternative proposed is that split the 18th game week will be split across two midweeks in January, with five fixtures taking place in each so that each team gets a single midweek off. In a hectic season where high-profile managers such as Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have spoken out against fixture congestion and how they believe it endangers player safety, this is a bold move for the Premier League to take.
What Does This Mean for the Future?
Of course, fans are excited by the news, as it means that there is more football to watch in these winter months, but supporters will soon become divided if their favourite players get injured as a result of having to play too many games in too short a space of time.
There is little doubt that a winter break will return to English football, once society eventually returns to normality. However, it can be sacrificed in this most urgent of seasons, the case for it to be a necessity at all definitely seems weaker.
Regularly playing at an intense level does not seem to have had a damaging impact on English sides in UEFA’s top competitions as of late. As for its impact on the national team, even England manager Gareth Southgate is not convinced that a winter break will have a huge impact on England’s international prospects.
Yes, other top European leagues have one, but they also only have one domestic cup. Should we change our entire footballing pyramid to mirror our European neighbours? Some would say that we should. However, is there not a case to be made that the Premier League became known as the best and most competitive top division in the world for a reason? I would insist that there is.
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