The schedule congestion in the Premier League is one of the worst in world sports. Starting in December, teams play many midweek games anchored by weekend games on back to back weeks. It’s not uncommon to see a team play five games in a couple weeks during the Boxing Day and festive season.
Add in Cup matches and it can get pretty bad. After years of trying to give players somewhat of a winter break without doing away with the traditional Boxing Day/New Years Day festivities, an agreement has been made to have a winter break in February where teams will have a 10 day break starting with the 2019-20 season. In addition, the EFL or Carabao Cup will do away with extra time (other than the final) starting next season and go straight to penalties in hopes to limit minutes and because they determined that 85 percent of matches that went to extra time went to penalties anyway so just spare everyone the extra half hour.
What’s great about this is that as fans, we won’t notice the break as it would be staggered over two weekends. Five games will be played one weekend, five the next and everyone gets one of those weekends off. In addition, the fifth round of the FA Cup (Round of 16) will no longer have replays if a game is tied after 90 minutes and that round will be played midweek.
A 10 day break isn’t exactly comparable to some of the other top leagues in Europe but it’s a good start at least. Germany, Spain, France and Italy take anywhere from a couple weeks to a month off during the holiday season whereas Arsenal played six games in 19 days.
Some people pointed to fixture congestion as a reason English teams struggle in the UEFA Champions League. They played so many more games and are facing teams who just had a winter break. It’s debatable whether that is true but Liverpool did make the final so it’s not impossible.
The Premier League will also be forced to dramatically change its schedule in 2022 for the Qatar World Cup. The World Cup in 2022 will be from November 21 to December 18 so they’ll need to take four weeks off. Maybe that will be an opportunity to give either another 10 day break or a longer winter break.
[BBC/Photo: Getty Images]