In Depth

Premier League is ‘open’ to a winter break - but what do football fans think?

New TV rights deal could see a mid-season break introduced in England after the festive fixtures

The Premier League has held discussions with the Football Association and the English Football League regarding the introduction of a winter break. 

Germany, France, Italy and Spain already have a mid-season break in place and England could soon follow suit when the next Premier League television rights deal is agreed, says the BBC

The TV rights holders for the 2019-2022 seasons will be announced next week and The Times reports that the Premier League has warned broadcasters that a winter break could be introduced before 2022. The Times has learnt that tender documents sent to potential broadcast partners “reference the prospect of a winter break”.  

Clarifying its position, the Premier League issued a statement today regarding the possibility of a winter break. Published by Sky Sports, the statement said: “The Premier League has been in discussions with the FA and EFL for several months regarding the challenges of the increasingly congested English football calendar, and ways in which we can work together to ease fixture congestion while also giving players a mid-season break. 

“Provided space can be found in the calendar, we are open to this in principle and will continue constructive discussions with our football stakeholders to seek a workable solution.”

Mixed views from managers 

While the packed winter fixture schedule is seen as a tradition by many fans, some Premier League players and managers have complained of too many matches during December and January.

After playing ten games in a month over Christmas and New Year, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola told the BBC that the festive schedule was “killing players”. His counterpart at Manchester United, Jose Mourinho, said in an interview with The Sun in November that the lack of a winter break held back English teams in the Champions League. 

Although Guardiola and Mourinho are in favour of a mid-season time-out, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger famously said in 2015 he “would cry” if a winter break was introduced.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “I would cry if you changed that because it’s part of English tradition and English football. It’s a very important part of us being popular in the world, that nobody works at Christmas and everybody watches the Premier League.”  

Festive fixtures will stay

Many fans agree with Wenger that the festive fixtures should remain in place. But the good news for those supporters is that any potential winter break would happen in January - meaning the festive fixture list would not be affected.

The Daily Mirror and The Sun report that Christmas and New Year fixtures are “safe” and “not under threat”. The Mirror says: “Don’t worry, the traditional festive football fixtures are safe - with any stoppage taking place in January.”

The ‘England’ factor

If a winter break is beneficial to Premier League clubs and players, another argument for it is the fortunes of the England team.

When he first experienced the festive football fiesta in 2015, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said that England’s chances were hampered by the lack of a break. The German told the Daily Mail: “You have too many games, that’s for sure. You have no break, too many tournaments. I think everybody knows that’s not the way [to be successful].” 

However, England boss Gareth Southgate questioned if a break would actually improve the national team’s chances of winning major tournaments. In an interview with The Guardian in December 2016, Southgate said: “It’s an interesting debate. The idea of a winter break will be flagged but I don’t ever remember this debate happening when I was playing in 96 or 98.”

What do the fans think of a winter break?

According to a current poll on the BBC Sport website 58% of fans are in favour of a winter break while 42% are against the idea. 

Many fans want to see the festive fixtures stay, but a number of supporters believe that if the clubs were given a break they would then embark on “lucrative” tours to the Middle East and Far East.

The reaction from fans on Twitter has been mixed to say the least. We pick out some of the best tweets regarding the possibility of a winter break:

TV is “killing the game” says one fan.

“Will make the league better”.

A “break” to the Far East?

No excuses or more excuses?

Get rid of “pointless friendlies”.

No more second legs or cup replays either...

One fan proposes a radical change to the season.

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