Should we give the cold shoulder to a Winter Break?

For a number of years now, there has been talk about incorporating a European style winter break into the English Premier league. The idea is that a winter break will give England’s international players two weeks off during the season so that they don’t go into major tournaments having played for 10 solid months; but is this a good idea?

Yesterday, Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, fuelled the fire further by suggesting that FA cup replays could be scrapped in order to ease in a winter break and reduce fixture congestion over the winter months. This would allow England’s top players, especially the ageing one’s like captain, Steven Gerrard, a chance to recuperate. In theory, at least, this sounds like an excellent idea, however there are a flaws in the proposal.

Firstly, I am not sure how much a winter break would actually benefit the England national side. At present, I would say there are seven international teams that have far more talented players and better youth systems than the England set-up: Spain, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.  Even with a winter break in place it is hard to see how England can do better than these teams at major competitions, we don’t have senior players that can even come close to the likes of a Messi, Ronaldo or Iniesta or, currently the youth players that can touch Neymar, Marco Reus or Leandro Damiao. What the national team needs is better funding and coaches at grass roots level and better systems in place to scout and bring through young players at top flight clubs; unfortunately at the moment Premier league teams rely too heavily on talented foreign youngsters and it is effecting the national team.

Another flaw in the proposal is the potential of running the magic of the FA cup. If you scrap FA cup replays then it essentially kills off the lower league and non-league teams’ chances and kills the majority of the excitement that we have seen over the last few decades. Smaller football clubs, especially non league sides, depend on a good cup run to keep their finances intact for that season, if you take replays out of the equation then the potential for 2 big paydays, which often these clubs need to survive, is extinguished. If you take a conference team like Forest Green Rovers, who have had tremendous financial struggles over the last few seasons and they draw the big one in round three, Manchester United at home, the revenue they take at home is nothing compared to what they will make if they hold them to a draw and go back to Old Trafford. The revenue from the replay alone could keep them afloat for a few seasons and this is why they are so important. Also, purely on footballing terms, they are so exciting to watch and I maintain that the FA cup is the best domestic cup competition in the world, so why change it now?

Finally, my last point is about to the temperament and will power of the modern day footballer. Who is to say that if you give a multi-millionaire Premier League footballer two weeks off in the middle of the season, he will actually use that for resting?  I am not tarnishing all of them with the same brush, but I can guarantee that a good 25% of them will use the time to jet halfway across the world to party for a week and come back no more rested than if they had played 3 games. That is more detrimental to the national team than actually keeping their match fitness and sharpness up.

Like I said before, a winter break is a great idea in theory, but the FA have a few things to think about before they give the idea the green light; besides, we all love a bit of football over the Christmas period, don’t we?

Kieran Milward