Premier League: 10 Reasons English Football Needs a Winter Break
Over the past few years, the calls to implement a winter break in the busy English football schedule have been numerous, with several high-profile players and managers weighing in.
Though the FA has been reluctant to make the change, many other leagues throughout Europe have adopted the scheduling changes to enormously effectively ends.
The reasons to make such a change are numerous, and the supporters for the idea are many. Here are 10 such reasons why English Football needs a winter break.
The human body is more susceptible to sustaining injuries in cold weather. While athletes may appear to us, the spectators, as superhuman playmaking machines that could not possibly fall victim to the same risks that hold true for the rest of us, they are not.
Football is a physical game that's played outside, in which the athletes are expected to sustain heavy tackles, land gracefully from high-impact jumps, push and shove each other around, and hit the ground hard several times in a match in the middle of the coldest season of the year.
Injuries are inevitable.
Eliminating just a small fraction of the playing time from that coldest timeframe, even by just two weeks, is sure to reduce the number of sustained injuries by premier league players to a significant and noticeable degree, resulting in better performances and longer-lasting careers.
Injury Recovery Time
One high-profile proponent of the movement to add a winter-break to the English football schedule is none other than Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been leading the push for years.
One reason he's so in favor of the idea is so his injured players can have time to recover without missing minutes on the pitch.
"Most Decembers we play between eight and nine games at the worst time of the year. The pitches are heavier, the weather is worse and then in the second half of the season you'll find a lot of players at all clubs carrying strains, pulls, but because of the importance of the games they keep on playing."
He notes that this would mostly benefit players who sustain injuries prior to the break, but that is a time when a large number of injuries are incurred anyway.
"It is not just to give the players a rest," he says. "It is to get rid of all the little injuries they carry."
Another aspect of Fergie's battle to bring a winter break to EPL is the immense benefits of having a time for mental recuperation, along with physical.
The busy schedules of many English clubs take their toll on everybody involved, including players, staff members, and managers.
Ferguson notes: "It would also freshen everyone up mentally, including my staff because they could do with that break as well."
The end result is higher-performing employees for each club, both on and off the pitch.
Fewer Match Postponements
Every season, it seems a number of anticipated matches are called off (to be played at a later date, of course) due to inclement weather. It's an inherent trait of a winter sport.
When the snowstorms come knocking, the league is naturally faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to play on, and a choice between rising player and fan safety to avoid the frustrations of fitting rescheduled matches into the later stages of the season.
A short break in the action during the coldest period of the year would reduce that risk, and leave the schedule that much more intact. This is a huge plus for clubs that plan their lineups around busy schedules and fans who restructure their entire lives around matchday.
Speaking of fans, transportation to and from stadiums can be dodgy enough as it is, before adding the troubles of icy roads and snow-packed highways.
Some have argued that it should be up to the fans to decide for themselves whether or not to take the risk. But let's be honest, the obsessive fan is hardly in the most logical state of mind on matchday, especially when he's waited all week to chug a few beers and watch his favorite side smash the opposition.
And when somebody does get hurt, the FA is the first to take the blame for not postponing the match.
A short break in the schedule is not exactly going to eliminate every situation that puts supporter safety on the line, but it will do it's part. Enough to where the conversations aren't quite so much in the spotlight every winter.
Preparation for the January Transfer Window
The January transfer window is widely regarded as the least opportune time to buy for a club, and the most opportune time to sell.
As clubs scramble to repair injured lineups and fill holes and weaknesses that are pinpointed in the first half of the season, prices drastically inflate and poor decisions are often made.
There is a lot going on within an organization as a club battles to remain dangerous in the league by playing matches while simultaneously making bids and fending off suitors for their talent.
A break in the playing side of that frenzy would at least calm things down enough to make the January transfer window a bit less of a train wreck.
Managers could focus, for some time at least, exclusively on locating potential talent and drafting bids, and players making a possible move could consider their terms in peace without a match to worry about the next day. The overall process would go significantly smoother, with much better results for the clubs who buy and sell in January.
Promote the FA Cup
In one successful example of a national league implementing a winter break to the schedule, German clubs are given a break in January to rest and recoup before their schedule resumes with a round of domestic cup matches.
Alex Ferguson and Sunderland boss Steve Bruce have both openly backed a similar model in England, to promote and shine the spotlight on the FA Cup.
Bruce gave lent his opinion to The Independent in February:
"My thoughts on [the FA Cup] are that the competition needs a radical revamp. For example, the third round is usually the first Saturday after New Year when everyone is spent up from Christmas, and it becomes a problem for people after they have shelled out the money for their season tickets."
His solution? Insert a midseason break, and "start off your fixtures again with two FA Cup ties when people haven't seen football for a while. We could kick off again with back-to-back FA Cup ties."
Improving England's International Quality
Once again, it's Alex Ferguson who shows us the light.
Following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Ferguson laid a heavy portion of the blame for England's underachievement on the FA's hesitation to implement a break:
"The FA has to give the country the best possible chance of doing well in the World Cup. Because of the nature of our game and because of the demands from TV to have a programme every week, the idea of a winter break, which I was first talking about 30 years ago in Scotland and have done since I came down to England, nothing has happened about it. They must realise that, going into the World Cup, they have handicapped their team."
Fergie believes that that the nine-month season of straight football with little available time for players to rest leaves athletes and exhausted and unfit at the end of the season. He also believes that a winter break would make England as competitive as International sides like Germany, who have found success in their own winter break structure.
"When they get to the end of the season and have a major tournament like a World Cup or European Championship they are not 100% fit, they can't be. They need that rest factor which brings the energy back into the system. Germany always take that month-long break in January and they always seem to do better in World Cups than anyone ever expects."
Improving EPL's Champions League Quality
To that end, if a winter break can make England perform better on the international level, then why can't it make Premier League sides perform better in European competitions?
The argument goes much in the same direction as the argument on the last slide. Players on English squads are more beat-down and exhausted by the knockout rounds of the Champions League tournament (not to mention by the time the final comes around) then their other European opponents.
There's an ongoing debate about whether or not Manchester United will ever have what it takes to dethrone Barcelona in the near future. Maybe Fergie's idea is just what they need to get the edge.
Guest Opinion: My Wife
When my wife learned that I would be composing a list of reasons as to why England should implement a winter break into the Premier League schedule, she insisted that I let her have a say:
The Premier League soccer people should implement a winter break for all of the wives and girlfriends of obsessed fans around the world. All year, we sit in silence, patiently enduring hours of soccer people running around and kicking a ball, patiently waiting for that guy with the whistle to make it all end. And then what happens? They turn on another game and watch more soccer people!
It was bad enough when my husband only watched Major League Soccer people all summer, and I was dragged to the stadium every weekend when I could have been watching Teen Mom. At least back then it was all over in November, and I didn't have to deal with it again until March. But now that he watches those England soccer people too, it's all year long!
I need a break. Any time would work, but winter will be just fine. I swear to god, if he makes me watch one more hour of blah blah blah, something something KILL HIM!
Yeah, I stopped listening there towards the end. On second thought, maybe EPL doesn't need a winter break after all.