Does England Need A ‘Winter Break’?

EnglandIn the aftermath of England’s Euro 2012 elimination, the reasons behind the squad’s early departure from Poland and Ukraine are being searched for. It is therefore little surprise that the issue of the ‘winter break’ that has lingered around Premier League discourse in recent years has once again come to prominence. The chances of such a notion being implemented seem distant due to a perceived lack of flexibility in English football in recent years, but would it improve the Three Lions’ competitiveness at international tournaments.

The majority of European nations enjoy a break during the winter months. This season Spanish clubs took three weeks off, while in Serie A there was just a few days difference. Germany also enjoyed a month-long spell away from Bundesliga. One main protagonist of introducing a similar function to England is Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. In February of last year he told Sky Sports:

“I think it’s worth looking at the German model and giving the players a month’s break from football in January and then start the second half of the season. I know that would mean spilling over into the summer but I see nothing wrong with that and playing fixtures beyond May.”

He has suggested any time from between two weeks and one month rest would be hugely beneficial. A break during the Premier League season would enable players to rest and recuperate, reducing the amounts of knocks and strains that they are sometimes encouraged to play through. Conditions in the winter, especially in England, are frequently abysmal. The cold, wet creates heavier pitches and contributes to more dangerous tackles, thus increasing the likelihood of unnecessary injuries.

By separating the season in two it would also enable squads to regain focus and avoid mental exhaustion too. The busy Christmas period can be an unrelenting drain on the energies of players and staff but upon its completion, the season refuses to let up.

Yet there remains myriad barriers to the introduction to such a change in the Premier League. Perhaps the most prevalent would be the disruption to the TV Schedule. Broadcasters purchase the rights to matches at incredible costs and they would not welcome a period where they can cover no games as it could potentially damage their income and ratings.

But there is one huge difference between England and the rest of the continent in regards to the winter break. The top English clubs compete in two domestic cups. The League Cup has not truly been taken seriously for a number of years and is usually only targeted by clubs in search of some easy silverware. To accommodate a break, fixtures would need to be reduced and the FA would need to seriously consider the necessity of the competition. It is a fairly radical option, but less so than the scaling back of the number of clubs in the Premier League.

There can be little argument against the fact as to whether extra time off would make England more competitive on the international stage. Germany, Spain and Italy all had time off from their domestic campaigns in the winter and all made the semi-finals of Euro 2012. If a similar schedule had been adopted in England then fresher players could have contribute towards making up for our deficiencies in quality in comparison.

Discounting Chelsea’s Champions League win last season, the representation of English clubs in the latter stages of the tournament has also come under fire in recent seasons. Yet the Premier League remains the highest rated competition on the continent and has regularly been represented healthily in the latter stages of European competition in a more long-term view. The winter break argument seems to come ahead of recognising that the England’s position at the top of UEFA’s coefficients table is now under threat.

The Three Lions’ disappointing display at Euro 2012 is not solely down to the absence of a winter break. While it would likely provide a positive impact on the nation’s chances on the international stage, it should not be used to mask the ongoing, long-term, problematic issues facing the game in England, especially youth development.

Some changes have been made to the structure of youth football recently but the introduction of home-grown talent into the Premier League clubs needs to be increased. The way things stand at the moment, the only way is down for England. A winter break should just be the start of a revolution in the game at home in order to return some international glory to the nation.

So will a winter break really make all the difference – It’s a simple question isn’t it, but there are so many reasons for and against it. Samsung have asked football fans ‘what matters most’ to them. I have added my thoughts to the process and I suggest you do the same by clicking here to be in with a chance to win a whole host of goodies, including a Samsung Smart Television ES8000 55”. Why not join the debate…

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