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Premier League inches closer to a winter break

Roadblocks are being cleared as we speak.

Seen Around - February 2018 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows - Day 3 Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

One of the “peculiarities” of the English soccer calendar is the December “festive period”. I put peculiarities in quotes there because the overstuffing of the fixture list in the last couple weeks of the season is a conscious choice, not some quirk of a random scheduler that can’t be adjusted.

It’s always struck me as counterproductive that at times when most other major European leagues are taking a holiday break, resting their players for the long sprint to the finish, England are mashing together as many games as possible in as short a time as possible - most teams play every three days for a couple weeks, and sometimes every two days.

This, as you can imagine, isn’t great - it isn’t great for the health and durability of the players, it’s not great for oh who am I kidding it’s great for the TV companies and that’s all that matters because that’s where the money comes from.

Germany leads the league in winter breaks - theirs is a whopping 22 days, this season’s break starting on December 20 and ending January 12. France’s also started 12.20, but only lasted 16 days, while Spain’s started December 23 and lasted 14 days. Italy takes most of January off - 14 days, from the sixth to the 21st.

In order to create a winter break in England, The FA, Premier League, and Football League have reached a tentative agreement to play the fifth round of the FA Cup in the middle of the week and not on the weekends - and crucially, to not allow replays - in order to give Premier League clubs at least 13 days without a match in February. England’s break wouldn’t line up with the rest of Europe, but it’s still a winter break - heaven forbid we mess with the massive fixture pile in late December, right?

This break wouldn’t apply to the Championship - with 24 teams, there’s far less flexibility and fewer off days in Championship scheduling - but they have agreed to play the 5th round FA Cup matches midweek in order to accommodate the Premier League. The theory is that this will benefit the Premier League players in the England team over the course of World Cup 2020, which, according to the story, posits that

The premise behind the idea is that England would have the greatest benefit of home advantage among the participating countries.

Which, well, I’m not sure how true that is, since all the major European leagues also take breaks? I mean, it’s a good idea to have a break, but to think that this particular break makes England more ready for Euro 2020 than other nations is a bit, shall we say, optimistic?

Anyway, regardless of reason, I’m all for a winter break - I would have rather seen it approach the German duration, but anything that will help not grind players into dust is all right in my book.