FA Cup TV deal scuppers plans for Premier League winter break
Contract says ties must still be played on weekends and fixtures cannot be moved
A "hugely significant" new TV rights deal for the FA Cup, reportedly worth £820m over six seasons, could scupper hopes for a winter break for the Premier League until at least 2025.
Last month the BBC reported that plans to move the fourth and fifth rounds of the cup to midweek and abandon replays were under discussion with the aim of creating space in the calendar to give players a rest.
But the lucrative new TV deal, agreed this week, is dependent on FA Cup games taking place at weekends, reports The Times.
"It is understood that the new £820m contract, which will run for six seasons from 2018-19, contains clauses stipulating that the initial ties must take place over weekends, removing any scope to rearrange the fixture calendar to facilitate a mid-season shutdown," says the paper.
The FA Cup deal "does contain the scope for scrapping replays – which almost always take place midweek – but that alone would not create space for a break without concessions from the Premier League", adds the paper.
But there is no chance of the Premier League agreeing to move weekend matches to midweek to create space in the calendar, as weekend games attract a much bigger global TV audience.
"Ideally, the Premier League would like to schedule even more matches at weekends and there is no prospect of it agreeing to move fixtures to midweek to create space for a winter break when negotiations over the next TV contract begin next year.
"The Premier League and Football Association support the concept of a winter break in theory... but neither organisation appears prepared to take the commercial hit necessary to make it happen."
A mid-season break has been put forward as one way of improving the fortunes of the England football team at major tournaments, with fatigue among players after a long season often cited as a reason for their under performance.