Festive fixtures are a staple in English football with matches around Boxing Day and New Year's the focal point and busiest period of the Premier League schedule - but there has been criticism over its physical demand of players and the way it takes its toll on the long run.
With the announcement that a winter break will be introduced for the first time ever, Goal takes a look at why it's being introduced at all, how long the break will be, how it impacts the football calendar and which European leagues already observe it.
When will the first Premier League winter break be?
The first Premier League winter break is set to first take place during the 2019-2020 season , which aligns itself with the new TV deal rights that were announced earlier this year.
It also prepares itself for the Qatar World Cup in 2020, which will force the Premier League to take a winter break into account as the competition will be held from December to January.
Why is the Premier League winter break being introduced?
European managers such as Jurgen Klopp have long lamented the fact that the Premier League season has no break. The manager himself got a shock in his first full season at the English club after moving from Germany and, not being used to having to preserve and rotate his players around the busy festive schedule, saw his side slip dramatically in the league table.
Major European leagues such as Spain, France, Germany and Italy all observe festive breaks which allow their players to get some much-needed rest ahead of the crucial end-of-season run-in that culminates in the latter stages of the Europa League and the Champions League.
Clubs in Italy arrange their winter break in line with the Champions League, and a winter break for English footballers – most of whom in the Premier League – would potentially benefit them in the long-run ahead of their Euro 2020 campaign.
How long will the Premier League winter break be?
The winter break will last approximately two weeks , with the break for Premier League clubs being staggered over two weekends.
Ten teams will be playing the first weekend and the other 10 teams will be playing the following weekend, which will allow all clubs to have a two-week break from football.
There is already an agreement in place that the clubs will not use the break to go on money-making tours abroad, though will be permitted to travel to a warm training camp during the break.
Which European clubs already observe a winter break?
The Premier League is the only major European league to not implement a winter break, and introducing one could benefit English footballers ahead of crucial international competitions, as well as European competitions.
2017-18 Winter breaks across Europe:
|Country||Break starts||Break ends||Duration|
|Germany||Dec. 20||Jan. 12||22 days|
|France||Dec. 20||Jan. 6||16 days|
|Italy||Jan. 6||Jan. 21||14 days|
|Spain||Dec. 23||Jan. 3||11 days|
Will the FA Cup be affected?
There have been suggestions that the FA Cup will be moved to midweek to be in accordance with the winter break, which leaves weekends free for Premier League football.
The announcement of the eradication of replays in the fifth round will also free up more space in the fixture calendar, what with Premier League teams being introduced in the FA Cup beginning the first week of January.
Replays would be observed in the fourth and third rounds, however, though fifth-round ties would instead go into extra time and penalties.
There is still a matter of seeing how the FA Cup fourth round will fit around the festive break, however, as they are usually reserved for the last week of January – right in the middle of when most Premier League clubs would be taking part in the winter break.
Will there still be a Premier League festive schedule?
The main appeal of the busy festive schedule is for television rights and broadcasting holders, and remains a staple of English football.
Ex-Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal, however, lambasted the lack of a rest period for players in English football after spells managing clubs in Spain and Holland – stating that players deserve a break and called it the "most evil thing of this culture".
Will the Premier League winter break actually have any impact?
Quite possibly, particularly with teams pushing for titles on a number of fronts.
Liverpool boss Klopp blamed the lack of a break for a run of poor form last season when a victory against Tottenham in mid-February marked their first league victory of the calendar year. A lack of squad rotation and player exhaustion impacted their season, and, the German believes it cost them important points in the race to finish in the top four.
"In December we missed players and did not have the best schedule. You could see the difference physically," he told reporters.
This year, Liverpool players spent a 10 days off participating in a warm-weather training camp in Marbella, Spain following their early fourth-round exit to West Brom in the FA Cup. It ultimately benefited the Reds, as they flourished in the Champions League and maintained their top four spot.
Will the winter break affect non-Premier League clubs in England?
No, the winter break will only impact the Premier League, with the likes of the Championship and the Football League remaining unaffected and observing no rest period.
The 2018-2019 Premier League season will commence on August 11.