The English Football Association have confirmed there will be an annual winter break in the Premier League, starting in 2019/20.
The two-week break will take place in February but will still see Premier League games taking place every weekend during the period – five games will take place on one weekend and five on another.
The FA have made significant changes to the fixture list to accompany the winter break, moving FA Cup fifth round matches to midweek and removing fifth-round replays with extra time and penalties.
The aim of the winter break is also to help England succeed at future World Cups and European Championships, as the intensity of a full campaign in the Premier League can prove too taxing for many players when going into a tournament.
Introducing a winter break has been something the FA have considered doing for some time. Regulations will be put in place to prevent clubs using the break to generate revenue through a tour to another country, however.
Martin Glenn, the FA chief executive, said: “This is a significant moment for English football and one that we believe will greatly benefit both club and country. It’s no secret that we have a very congested fixture calendar and over recent years we have been working with the whole game to find a solution.”
Richard Scudamore, the Premier League executive chairman, added: “We have been discussing the football calendar with The FA and EFL for several months, including ways we can work together to ease fixture congestion, keep the Premier League action going right through the season and provide a mid-season player break.
“We are very pleased to have an outcome that will include an exciting first for fans – a full fixture programme split over two weekends with all matches broadcast live in the UK.”
The Championship, League One and League Two remain unchanged, as adding a two-week break into a 46-game season proves a difficult task without adding to the fixture pileup that the divisions are already suffering from the 72 EFL clubs will feature in each of the weekends there is a break.
Having a winter break is certainly a landmark moment, but there are reasons why the debate about having one is misguided. The argument has always been that England suffer in international tournaments as they’ve undergone a gruelling Premier League campaign before it starts. But there are many players in the squad who weren’t regular first-teamers, so is the winter break really the answer?
There are many foreign players in the Premier League who have played a full domestic season and still perform better for their country in a major international tournament than the English players do. Sports scientists reportedly agree that having a break is important for the players, but will it make any logical difference? Don’t players risk losing sharpness if they’re not playing every week?
Should England successfully qualify for the 2020 European Championships, it will be interesting to see how they fare after the winter break in February – whether or not the weekend off from playing was a help or a hindrance.