Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn has confirmed a winter break will be written into Premier League rules from the 2019-20 season while FA Cup fifth round replays are to be scrapped.
The move for a break took a step closer this week when broadcaster BT Sport confirmed they had secured more live matches – including the split weekend – which all but announced a deal had been struck before official confirmation on Friday.
And for FA chief Glenn, there is a hope the move will see performances improve for club and country: ‘I think you will see it in better-rested players and I think you will see the fruits of it in better Champions League knock-out performances and hopefully England players more rested for major tournaments.
A winter break for the Premier League from the 2019-20 season has been confirmed by the FA
The move is hoped to bring better performances for England and clubs in Champions League
‘If you were to look at other countries that do it, they say, their technical people say, it’s as much the mental break as the physical one. There is nothing as intense as an English Premier League season, with 38 games at all count for something.
HOW WILL IT WORK?
The break will not be in place next season and instead will be brought in for the 2019-20 campaign.
It will begin in February 2020 and five Premier League games will take on one weekend, the other five the next.
This gives teams a two-week break between matches in this period.
All three divisions in the Football League will remain unchanged.
FA Cup fifth round, usually played on the second weekend of February, will be moved to midweek with replays scrapped in favour of extra time and penalties.
‘The hope is that players will be more mentally rested, which makes them fresher, which you will see in, from an England point of view, hopefully going into end of season tournaments with a bit more verve and vim.
‘And, as importantly, the reason the Premier League clubs are so keen on it is that in the Champions League knock-out stage, where we’ve not been great over the past few years, hopefully that can help.’
The move brings the Premier League in line with rival leagues in Germany, France, Spain and Italy where they had had a long-standing tradition of a winter break.
Sport Agenda revealed the discussions between the FA, Premier League and Football League edged closer to an agreement back in April.
FA chief Martin Glenn insists the break will be as much of a ‘mental break’ as a physical one
The break for Premier League teams would be staggered over two weekends, with 10 teams playing one weekend and the other 10 the next weekend, giving each club a two-week rest.
It will happen from February 2020 but the move would be structured to include matches every weekend. The break would not affect the Christmas and New Year festive fixtures.
EUROPEAN WINTER BREAKS
Dates of break (including cup games): December 23-January 3
Days between league matches: 14
Dates of break (including cup games): December 20-January 12
Days between league matches: 25
Dates of break (including cup games): January 6-January 21
Days between league matches: 15
Dates of break (including cup games): December 20-January 6
Days between league matches: 22
Russian Premier League
Dates of break (including cup games): December 11 – March 2
Days between league matches: 90
Based on dates from last season.
Foreign managers and players have regularly made their feelings known on the benefits of introducing a winter break and the hope is that it can provide a boost to teams both domestically and in Europe.
Glenn also touched on the decision to take away replays from the fifth round of the FA Cup – and play matches in midweek – in a bid to try and limit fixture conflicts.
But any suggestions that the same could eventually happen to the third and fourth round were quickly dismissed.
‘The FA Cup is not the same competition it was 20-odd years ago,’ Glenn said. ‘The Final used to go to replays. The FA Cup has always innovated, so it wasn’t a huge argument.
‘We need to make the FA Cup relevant to today’s generation and also the big clubs. Reducing the number of replays, being a bit flexible about it, is all part of the justification.
‘There won’t be a change to third and fourth round replays. A core essence of the Cup is the giant-killing in the third and fourth rounds. That’s absolutely core, what it’s all about. Interestingly, it’s what seems to be one of the reasons it is popular abroad. Everybody likes to see a giant-killing. That won’t change.’