Should the Premier League have a winter break for these reasons?
By the end of March, football fans worldwide were looking at a Champions League quarter final draw that lacked one distinct presence: any English teams. Liverpool did not qualify from their group, missing out to Real Madrid and Swiss Super League champions FC Basel. In the round of 16, Arsenal were humbled by a Monaco team that put 3 past them at the Emirates and went out on away goals, with Chelsea crashing out on the same rule to Paris Saint Germain. Manchester City were the last to miss out on a semi final spot, and were thoroughly beaten home and away to a rampant Suarez double and Messi master-class respectively.
The common denominator between the winning teams – a winter break. The lack of this rest period has been characteristic of the English Premier League throughout it’s tenure, but has it always been a problem? It is easy to blame the poor performance of England and English teams in world competitions on the only common difference available, but it was not a complaint when Liverpool won on that famous night in Milan back in 2005 or when there was at least one English finalist from 2005 to 2012 (not including the 2009/10 final).
Although the Christmas period is a hectic schedule of five games in fifteen days, the inclusion a particular busy festive fortnight does not mean that English teams play considerably more games than their European rivals in the year either. Some would argue that a period without any games would be a good choice to exploit commercial opportunities such as games in North America or Asia, effectively wasting the time players and staff could be spending for rest and recuperation. With that in mind however, football is now a business and any opportunity for financial gain would be welcomed by Financial Fair Play restricted clubs and lower clubs alike.
A festive period free of football would obviously give players and staff time to rest, focus on areas to improve for the second half of the season and potentially reduce the risk of injury. Despite the astronomical fees Premier League footballers are paid, these men and women would still welcome the chance to be with their families for a period of time over Christmas. A break from football would give fans a chance to save money on pay per view screenings and game day costs (including tickets, travel and food) which would be more than welcome during the most expensive time of the year for families. Frozen football pitches and dangerous travelling conditions, as well as difficult weather could be put aside for a few weeks too, meaning less chance of matches being called off.
The average finish of the other top five European teams (Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands) in the World Cup in the last three years was ninth, so essentially just missing out on the quarter finals. In comparison, England’s average finish was a lowly fifteenth. These five nations all benefit from a winter break which gives players time to rest before the next round of European fixtures, avoiding the packed programme that English teams face throughout the final month. And English winter break would put Premier League sides on even ground with the World Cup champions Germany the European champions Spain.
Barring Chelsea’s phenomenal run to eventual victory against Bayern Munich in incredible circumstances, there has not been an English winner of the Champions League since Manchester United in 2008 and there has not been a finalist from these shores in the last three.
A chance to rest in the middle of the season for players would be a great advantage in world competitions, and although it may not be the panacea that Premier League clubs and The Three Lions need, but it at least gives us a chance.
By Jake Wharmby
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Xavier Penades
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