LONDON: A winter break in English football is edging closer after the latest round of discussions between the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League which runs the three lower divisions. But enactment remains far from certain writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Obstacles remain over concerns in the lower leagues that the concept is being driven by the cash-rich Premier clubs with only their own interests at heart. This is because the one competition at risk of serious disruption is the FA Cup which is more important for lower-league clubs than for their rich cousins.
Such a break would not affect the busy Christmas/New Year schedule which is such a shattering experience for foreign managers when they arrive in English football. But the England team could benefit from players having had a midseason rest before the 2020 European Championship and World Cups.
Euro 2020 is being held in 12 cities across the continent but England’s Wembley will stage seven matches, including the semi-finals and the final. England will have at least two group games at home and possibly all three. If reach the final, England could play six out of seven games at Wembley.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola complained in January that that the midwinter schedule was “killing” the players while Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho has always cautioned that the lack of a break harmed English clubs’ hopes in the Champions League.
Greg Dyke, the former FA chairman, first called for a winter break in 2013 but, under initial proposals, the break would affect only the Premier League and not the three lower leagues whose 46-match schedule allows no ‘wriggle room.’
The first two-week interval would be scheduled from the 2019-20 season and take place in the early part of February. The fifth round of the FA Cup would take place in midweek and there would be no replays in third, fourth or fifth round with matches decided on the day via extra-time and, if necessary, penalties.
The break would not even be a unified one.
Under current proposals five Premier League matches would take place on one weekend with five on another. This means Premier League clubs would have at least 13 days without a match but without the lucrative foreign television deals revenue and schedules being affected.
Clubs would be cautioned that they should not arrange lucrative foreign friendly matches during the break though warm-weather training camps would be approved.