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Should England Adopt A Winter Break?

If Ruud van Nistelrooy and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had opted to play in their native Holland rather than try to top the Premiership goalscoring charts, they would be enjoying a month-long break this winter. Holland is not the only major European country where players enjoy this privilege, with the Germans also having a month off and Italy's Serie A closing down for two weeks over the Christmas and New Year period. Elsewhere, the Polish league has a three month break, while, closer to home, the Scots have experimented in recent seasons with a January shut-down.
Certainly many players feel they should be given time off with some foreign players expressing horror when they sign their huge contracts and find they are contracted to play right through the winter, not even being allowed home for Christmas and New Year (in fact, the fixtures become even more hectic). Unfortunately I can't accept this argument as there are lots of nurses, firemen and the like who have to work through Christmas (for a fraction of the money) so why shouldn't footballers?
If football did shut down, there is the problem of the unpredictable English weather, with winter temperatures fluctuating from -10 to +13 degrees centigrade at times. If January were fixture free and a sudden cold snap occurred in February, the fixture listwould be thrown into complete chaos. Although most clubs do have under-soil heating there are quite a few that don't and even then, games are still liable to be postponed because approach roads to the stadiums are unsafe.
If no fixtures were played between the last weekend before Christmas and the last weekend of January then that would leave five extra dates to find for league games plus a round of the FA Cup. The only option would be to reduce the size of the Premiership to 18 teams, which seems unlikely in the near future as it would be hard to find the required 13 clubs to vote for it given that few teams can be sure they would not be one of the extra relegated clubs. Manchester United and Arsenal have long called for a reduction so they can concentrate on European games more, but its wrong that more than half the clubs should play less just to satisfy the greedy few involved in the Champions League.
I find the talk of too many games very difficult to comprehend. There are bigger squads now, so we'll never again see occasions like 1965-6 and 1980-1 when Liverpool and Aston Villa each won the title using just 14 players all season. There is also much better treatment of injuries and understanding of diets, so players are far better looked after than they ever were, unlike in the past when players were simply pumped full of cortisone and ate pie and chips. It seems to me that the more money players are given, the more time off they want and the less they want to be running around in the cold.
As a young reserve at Anfield, Scottish-international Alan Hansen asked manager Bob Paisley if he could go home to Scotland for the festive season (the Christmas period) and was told that Liverpool's players enjoy a three-month-long Christmas, it's just that it occurs in the summer! Of course some players have international tournaments in the summer, but at the age of 35 they will have the rest of their lives to look forward to in luxury, unlike those that pay their wages and will be working till they are 65.
The only people who should be allowed to call for a winter break are the long suffering fans. They have to find the money for all these games and endure the elements, having to pay their admission fee whether their team wins or loses. As long as they keep wanting to come through the turnstiles, the players should carry on playing.
Adapted and reproduced courtesy of


By Steve Horton


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