Without fail, the issue of a winter break in English football rears its head every year. Christmas is supposedly a time for relaxing with your family and enjoying the festive season. So why does the English football calendar go into over-drive during the winter months, with game after game in adverse weather conditions?
There is no winter break in English football, unlike La Liga. The same applies to the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A. In Spain and Italy, players can enjoy the luxury of a two-week break, while players in Ligue 1 and Portuguesa Liga have three weeks respite.
In Germany, there is nearly a month without any top-flight football. By comparison, Premier League clubs typically face their busiest period of the season, with five matches in 15 days often the norm during the festive period.
So would a winter break be of benefit to the English Premier League, its players and the England national team?
Players in European leagues are in better condition come the summer and this helps them during international tournaments, making teams such as Spain and Italy more likely to perform better. The fact that these two teams made up the finalists of the European Championships this summer speaks volumes.
This rest period would also enable players to recuperate and restore their energy levels ahead of the season's climax. If players are tired, injuries are more likely to occur, especially when the temperature on the pitch is lower and the pitches are much harder under foot.
The winter conditions also effect the quality of football on display, so from a spectators' point of view, surely a winter break would ensure fans can watch a higher standard of football if the conditions are conducive to passing, attractive football? Snow and frozen pitches make the free-flowing game almost impossible.
Throw in the fact that the disruption caused to the league calendar by the postponement of games due to unplayable pitches - with rearranged games resulting in a fixture pile-up - and you have a catalogue of reasons that support the introduction of a winter break.
A succession of England and Premier League managers have called for a winter break to be introduced, claiming the extra fitness the players will possess will lead to a better chance of England achieving on the international stage. Many international players have claimed over the years that England will not win an international tournament until a winter break is introduced to give the players a much-needed break. So why hasn't this seemingly obvious ruling been introduced?
Despite the widespread support for a break amongst players and managers, there is not as much support from the key decision makers. The Premier League have stated that although it would support the concept of a winter break, the current programme of football makes it impractical. Perhaps they are correct in their judgement - with the amount of league and cup matches that need to be played, a winter break would push the league well into the summer, which would definitely have an impact on England's international ambitions.
There is also the issue of tradition. League games have been played on Boxing Day for decades, and breaking this could prove unpopular amongst certain fans.
The likelihood is that the Premier League will continue as it is without the introduction of a winter break, although the issue will continue to rumble on, year after year. The FA have so far been unmoved by calls from those in the game to enforce a winter lay-off, but football's governing body must decide on its priorities. Either they should stick with tradition or implement a winter break that enables fans, players and all involved with football to rest and regroup over the festive period. And who knows, perhaps England's prospects of winning a major tournament would significantly increase too?
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