It’s usually the first reason anyone can think of on the list of why England can’t win a major trophy (among many others). Head of the Premier League Richard Scudamore recently revealed that a winter break was being discussed with a view to improving both the prospects of the national team and the league itself. Those that now favour the winter break include Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Hodgson, Roberto Mancini, FA chairman Greg Dyke and numerous others.
Football is now shown every weekend, from August till April, with only international breaks and cup games to separate league games. It’s becoming harder to escape the idea that having a week or two away from football would make us appreciate the beautiful game a bit more for what it is. Five games across fifteen days in December and the New Year is a huge task for any Premier League club and it becomes a contest in fitness and squad depth to really reap the benefits of it. The sheer amount of game time around Christmas when most people are frantically running around shopping centres means the appeal is lost a lot of the time.
Initially, the most vocal advocates were those trying to maximise the chances of winning a major tournament for the English national team. In the unfamiliar playing conditions of other countries, the extra physical strain of having played from August through to April could be the difference between otherwise evenly matched sides. Former England coach Fabio Capello recently compared the idea of a winter break to a car refuelling at a petrol station on a long journey, and it’s hard not to be convinced of the potential effect it could have on the players. His views were echoed by former national team coach Sven Goran Eriksson, who said it was essential to the future of any international success.
While the idea was originally intended for the sake of the England national team, it could still have a host of benefits on the domestic leagues. A winter break which would allow the clubs and players time to rest, recuperate and consolidate on the season so far would probably benefit most teams. Many players are now beginning to support the idea, citing physical and mental exhaustion as the main reasons behind poor performances toward the end of the season.
The main problem that needs resolving for a winter break to come into effect is the lack of agreement between the Premier League, the Football League and incorporating the domestic cups. December is a hugely profitable time for football to be shown on TV, and a break in the schedule would probably damage profits. But at a time when resentment of the price of football is growing, a compromise needs to be reached between those involved. A winter break won’t solve every issue facing English football, but it will have a dramatic effect on both domestic and international football.