OTP Debates: A winter break

Posted by - January 1, 2011 - Conclusions, Premier League

Now is the Winter of our discontent

There has been a lot of discussion recently regarding the use of a Winter break within English football. It is something that has been instigated by our German and Spanish counterparts, and clearly has come the forefront again with the less than clement weather we have experienced in November and December.

Today OTP looks at some of the pros and cons:

For the break
Medically, the Christmas period is incredibly straining on players. It is an easy retort to say that footballers are paid overly well for what they do, but this does not make them superhuman. Playing four games in eight games, running an average of ten to twelve kilometres in each game and staying in all manner of different hotels whilst travelling hundreds of miles means that players are drained physically and emotionally. Injuries are therefore more likely.

With the recent weather, many games have been postponed. Surely instead of the hassle of pitch inspections, teams with games in hand and fans making wasted journeys it would be easier to simply have an official break.

With this schedule, it is also inevitable that standards will slip. Fans pay a lot of money to attend games, and they deserve to see players playing at the height of their technical ability. If a break would mean that players can regain much needed match fitness, do we not have a duty to allow this to happen?

As it is painful to note, England are consistently woeful in international tournaments. We also have no players in our current squad that play abroad, meaning that none get a Winter break. An England player that has not been injured since August 2009 will have had just three weeks off in 22 months. Surely this burnout must be a contributory factor to poor international performances?

Against the break
Christmas is football time, pure and simple. It is sons going with fathers, old mates getting together for the long drive North or South to watch their team. It is the time at which we are allowed to excuse ourselves from repeats of Shrek and The Snowman and pray for our favourite late Christmas present: three points. The majority of fans would not want a break from football. If they are the consumers, should their feelings and opinions not be upheld?

The timing of the break would be difficult. If it was introduced for the end of December, then this season we would have had a period of postponements followed by an official break at a time when the weather was conducive to football. The problem is therefore simply exacerbated.

The FA Cup is an English tradition up there with grumbling, queuing, and talking about the weather.
Agreed? Well if we have a Winter break, than this probably goes out of the window. The German and Spanish equivalents, the Copa del Rey and the DFB Pokal, are almost exclusively midweek tournaments. This allows the weekends to be left free for league football. But surely that removes much of the glamour and magic of the oldest cup competition in the world?

But the principal stumbling block is, as ever in our modern game, money. Money rules and money decides. Clubs gain more money from their Christmas games, which typically attract more fans than at other times. More TV revenue is made at Christmas, when people are more likely to be off work and watching their television set. Finally, there would have to be significant plans in place for how lower league clubs would make money at a time at which their clubs weren’t playing. In a Winter break players and staff still need to be paid, but income is not made from ticket sales.

So there you have it. Clearly arguments for and against, and OTP would love you to have your say.

For what it is worth I think that a three week break should be introduced from the second week in January onwards (straight after FA Cup third round day), but that within this break clubs that have already had postponed matches or need cup replays should play them within this time.


  • Boohoo

    Needs to be considered within overall framework of viability of football leagues. This in turn should include scheduling, marketing, number of pro clubs and size of divisions, management models, revenue streams, etc. Time for a major overhaul. Let’s get it right.

  • http://stuart-otterson.livejournal.com/ Stuart Otterson

    How about a compromise guys? It doesn’t have to be all this way or another, how about a winter’s break of a couple of weeks, but 1 or 2 fixtures in the middle of the break? Say 3-4 weeks break, with the traditional Boxing Day match in the middle with some training and how about these matches be assigned with nearby teams, derby matches preferably. That way people don’t have to travel so far on Boxing Day and if snow or frost on the pitch cancels the match it isn’t so far to travel home. Get the economical benefits of a derby match on Boxing Day, a few weeks rest bite and back and fighting somewhere in Jan!