If you already thought there’s too much football on over Christmas, look away now: in 12 months time six rounds of Premier League matches are scheduled within 17 days. That’s right, almost one-sixth of the 2017/18 season will take place within the two and a half weeks around Christmas and New Year. With the World Cup taking place five months later, the lack of a winter break will surely cost England in Russia, right? Not everyone agrees. Two Boar Sport writers battle it out over the big question: should the Premier League introduce a winter break?
Alex Jennings says YES
The absurdly congested English winter fixture list is an antiquated anomaly in European football and a winter break of some kind is wholly necessary. Opponents of such a break often deploy romantic arguments based on a beautiful history and tradition for December football, but in reality the Premier League is keen on so many games over Christmas simply because of the exclusive marketing it offers, with competitors off the air. That is why they’re planning a ludicrous six rounds of games within 17 days next season. Even so, tradition for tradition’s sake is clearly a flawed base to work from.
The build-up of fixtures in such a short period disproportionately favours the wealthier clubs with deeper squads
The risk this represents for players is huge, with injuries inevitable. The build-up of fixtures in such a short period disproportionately favours the wealthier clubs with deeper squads, further dividing an already unbalanced league. Although it would be incorrect to place England’s failings at major tournaments exclusively on the shoulders of an absence of a Winter Break, it’s certainly a factor. The effect of a couple of weeks of rest and recuperation in a friendlier climate breaking up a long season are keenly felt come June.
Like in so many aspects of football, the arrogant English way with regards to winter football is met with amused bafflement on the continent, with its effects felt in European club football too. Between their last game against RB Leipzig on 21 December and their Champions League tie against Arsenal in February, Bayern Munich will play just four games. In the same period, the Gunners will face nine. At a clear disadvantage, this may go some way to explaining why so many English teams have found themselves falling at the first knockout round in recent years.
Maybe, just maybe, we could watch some sport other than football in late December
Boxing Day is great fun, but the rest of the regular travelling on dark, cold nights isn’t ideal for fans. Plus, there is plenty of room for a break in the week before and/or 10 days after Boxing Day. Premier League clubs may indeed use such a break to cash in with a glamorous friendly, but the intensity required would be far less than the current situation. So, it’s time that England caught up with the rest of Europe, and maybe, just maybe, we could watch some sport other than football in late December.
Alfie Watson-Brown says NO
Wednesday 14 December 2016: the traditional, albeit clichéd ‘cold, wet night in Stoke’ ends with the whistle blowing on a painstakingly dull 0-0. The Southampton fans begin their arduous trip back down south with nothing to motivate them but the promise of getting to watch Virgil van Dijk in Saints colours for a little longer, before he ultimately does what any good Southampton player does and moves on to bigger things.
During the Christmas/New Year period fans are bombarded with the best gift of all: Premier League a plenty
Now, while this borderline torture may be a poor example, football is primarily a source of entertainment and although it doesn’t always appear so, the game is about the fans. Without football, millions of people would be stuck for entertainment, being forced to watch daytime reality television, or even cricket. Thankfully, this crickety dystopia doesn’t have to be realised and football is on show for the majority of the year. However, it’s during the Christmas/New Year period that fans are bombarded with the best gift of all: Premier League a plenty.
The so-called best league in the world reigns, completely uninterrupted by Messi and co. As squad depth is pushed to its limits, professional athletes like Eden Hazard and Gareth McAuley get to prove why they earn what they earn. In recent years this wonderful occasion has come under attack as one of the key reasons for England’s ‘Groundhog Day’ style performances at major tournaments, leading many to argue that the Premier League should follow its competitors in taking a winter break. While top pundits like Garth Crooks and Michael Owen toss around phrases like “burnout” and “that would’ve been a goal had it gone inside the post”, fans shudder at the thought that Wayne Rooney might not actually be to blame for this year’s failures, forgetting that six of France’s starting XI in the Euro 2016 final were Premier League regulars.
True Premier League fans mustn’t lose sight of what’s important
As English international football looks for a scapegoat to blame for lack of commitment, passion and occasionally talent, true Premier League fans mustn’t lose sight of what’s important: having something to watch that isn’t cricket.