Premier League to have winter break from 2019 season

From fifth round on there will be no FA Cup replays to accommodate 10-day break

A winter break will come into force in the Premier League for a first time in the 2019-20 season in a move the Football Association believes will help England to succeed at future World Cups and European Championships.

The governing body has agreed to move the FA Cup fifth round to midweek and scrap replays, while one round of the Premier League will now be straddled over two weekends. The changes will accommodate a 10-day break in February and bring the Premier League into line with other leading divisions around Europe.

The FA has long fought for a mid-season break in the belief in will rejuvenate players, although the hectic Christmas and New Year fixture period, which is particularly attractive to broadcasters, will remain untouched.

"It has been talked about for years and there has not been the climate of collaboration there is now," Martin Glenn, the FA chief executive, said. "It needed a strong FA to get it through, an FA that was financially in a better place and confident of its future revenue streams.

“I think you will see England players better rested for Euro 2020 and hopefully we will see that in their performance and continued improvement in the Champions League performance by English clubs.”

Glenn promised FA Cup third-round replays, which contribute hugely to the finances of lower league clubs through gate receipts, would be safeguarded. “We feel really strongly about never changing the third and fourth rounds,” he said. “A core essence of the Cup is the giant-killing. Interestingly, it’s what seems to be one of the reasons it is popular abroad. That won’t change.

“There are always traditionalists say you mustn’t change but the FA Cup has changed lots over its life. It used to have a two-legged final, it used to have finals that went to replays, there has been lots of evolution and you have to move with the times. This seems to be a reasonable trade-off.”

There is evidence to suggest a winter break – already in existence in Germany, Italy, France and Spain – would benefit players physically and mentally. A Uefa study published in 2013 indicated that a player is four times more likely to be injured in the final three months of the Premier League season than over the same period in other European leagues. It will also remove fatigue as mitigation for the England team underperforming at major tournaments.

“If you were to look at other countries that do it, their technical people say, it’s as much the mental break as the physical one,” Glenn said. “There is nothing as intense as an English Premier League season, with 38 games that all count for something. The hope is that players will be more mentally rested, which makes them fresher. From an England point of view they will hopefully go into end-of-season tournaments with a bit more verve and vim.”

The first break will happen in 2020 and will be trialled for the three years covering the new broadcasting rights deal. It will allow English players 10 days’ rest before the European Championship that summer, when Wembley will host seven matches, including the semi-finals and final. “Every England manager for the past 25 years has said ‘wouldn’t it be a good idea’ and it hasn’t been able to happen,” Glenn said.

The Football League, which has a 46-game season plus the play-offs to cram into a 10-month season, will continue without a winter break.

Shaun Harvey, the EFL chief executive, said: "It is currently impractical even if it was desirable for the EFL to introduce a similar break in our competitions. We will look to showcase the Sky Bet EFL during the two-week period."

No extra-time in next season’s Carabao Cup

Extra-time will no longer be played in the Carabao Cup from next season, with matches level at 90 minutes moving straight to a penalty shoot-out.

The EFL, who organise the League Cup, on Friday also announced the penalty shoot-out format would revert to the traditional alternating kicks, rather than the ABBA format which was trialled in 2017-18. VAR will also be used in all League Cup fixtures played at Premier League stadiums next term, the EFL said. – Guardian service

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