By the end of March, football fans worldwide were looking at a Champion’s League quarter final draw that lacked one distinct presence: any English teams.
Liverpool did not qualify from their group, missing out to Real Madrid and Swiss Super League champions FC Basel. In the round of 16, Arsenal were humbled by a Monaco team that put 3 past them at the Emirates and they went out on away goals, with Chelsea crashing out on the same rule to Paris Saint Germain. Manchester City were the last to miss out on a semi final spot, and were thoroughly beaten home and away to a rampant Suarez double and Messi masterclass respectively. The common denominator between the winning teams? A winter break.
The lack of this rest period has been characteristic of the English Premier League throughout it’s tenure, but has this always been a problem?
It is easy to blame the poor performance of England and English teams in world competitions on this obvious difference, but it was not a complaint when Liverpool won on that famous night in Milan back in 2005, or when there was at least one English finalist from 2005 to 2012 (not including 2009/10 final).
Although the Christmas period is a hectic schedule of five games in fifteen days,the inclusion of the busy festive period does not mean English teams play considerably more games than their European rivals in the year either.
“The lack of this rest period has been characteristic of the English Premier League throughout it’s tenure, but has it always been a problem?”
Some would argue that a period without any games would be a good chance to exploit (some would say abuse) commercial opportunities such as games in North America or Asia, effectively wasting the time players and staff could be spending for rest and recuperation. With that in mind however, football is now a business and any opportunity for financial gain would be welcomed by Financial Fair Play restricted clubs and lower clubs alike.
A festive period free of football would give players and staff time to obviously rest, focus on areas to improve for the second half of the season and potentially reduce the risk of injury. Despite the astronomical fees Premier League footballers are paid, these men and women would still welcome the chance to be with their families for a period of time over Christmas.
A break from football would give fans a chance to save money on pay per view screenings and game day costs (including tickets, travel and food) which would be more than welcome during the most expensive time of the year for families. Frozen football pitches and dangerous travelling conditions, as well as difficult weather could be put aside for a few weeks too, meaning less chance of matches being called off.
The average finish of the other top five European teams (Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands) in the World Cup in the last three years was ninth, so essentially just missing out on the quarter finals. England’s average finish – fifteenth.
“A festive period free of football would give players and staff time to obviously rest, focus on areas to improve for the second half of the season and potentially reduce the risk of injury”
No English team has won the Champion’s league in almost ten years and there has not been an English finalist in the last three. These five nations all benefit from a winter break which gives players time to rest before the next round of European fixtures, avoiding the packed programme that English teams face throughout the final month.
An English winter break would put Premier League sides on even ground with the World Cup champions Germany the European champions Spain. A chance to rest in the middle of the season for players would be a great advantage in world competitions, and although it may not be the be all and end all, but it at least gives us a chance.