Premier League winter break: How will it work and when will it be?
The Premier League has confirmed it will introduce a winter break from 2019-20. Here, we set out exactly how it will fit into the English calendar.
Why is the winter break being introduced?
Foreign managers have long campaigned for a winter break, as is enjoyed by all other major European leagues. It is claimed the rest benefits players for the second half of the season, especially those in the latter stages of the Champions League and the Europa League.
It is also hoped that giving England players a winter break ahead of Euro 2020 will give the national side a better chance of success.
When will the first winter break be?
The first winter break, or "midseason player break" as the Premier League is calling it, will take place between Feb. 8 and Feb 22.
But, to satisfy the demands of TV companies, it is a split break. Premier League football will not actually stop. Essentially, one full round of Premier League games is split in half and played over two weekends.
That means one half of the Premier League will take two weeks off, then the other half will do the same, but with an overlap. This means there are no blank weekends for broadcasting -- five games on the first weekend and five on the second.
Which Premier League games will be affected?
This round of games will be split, with half moved to Feb. 15. It has not yet been decided which games will be moved, and will be based upon the demands of broadcasting.
Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020
Arsenal v Newcastle United
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
Brighton v Watford
Chelsea v Manchester United
Everton v Crystal Palace
Manchester City v West Ham United
Norwich City v Liverpool
Sheffield United v A.F.C. Bournemouth
Southampton v Burnley
Wolverhampton v Leicester City
How long will the break be?
All clubs are set to be guaranteed a minimum of 13 days between games, which would mirror the system in Italy and Spain. Germany has a huge winter break; it lasted 22 days last season and will be 28 days in 2019-20. The Bundesliga has four fewer rounds of fixtures, while there is only one cup competition with single legs.
It also must be noted that Germany -- just like Spain, Italy and France -- has a complete shutdown for its winter break rather than splitting fixture lists.
What does this mean for the FA Cup?
Traditionally, the FA Cup fifth round would have been played on the weekend of Feb. 15. Instead, it will now be played in the midweek of March 4 -- the rest week between the opening knockout matches of the Champions League and Europa League.
Replays have been scrapped from the fifth round onwards, and any drawn ties will go to extra time and penalties. Replays would still remain in the earlier rounds.
So the packed festive schedule will remain?
Yes, it is far too popular among fans and broadcasters. Even managers such as former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger have admitted that the schedule through Christmas and the New Year is an important part of English football.
A full programme of games will be played around Dec. 21, Dec. 26, Dec. 28 and Jan. 1
Would all English football stop?
No, the EFL is not shutting down, even at Championship level. With 46 rounds of games to play it would struggle to find space.
Is the winter break really going to make a difference?
Any team that gets knocked out of the FA Cup in the early rounds effectively gets an extended break anyway.
Last season, Liverpool had 10 days off in February after their fourth-round exit, and jetted off to Marbella in Spain for warm-weather training. And 12 months earlier, after being knocked out at the same stage, they flew out to Spain as they were without a game for 16 days between Feb. 11 and 27.
In fact, most Premier League clubs already jet out for warm weather training even without an official winter break.
Will teams go off and play glamour friendlies?
The Premier League will forbid any team from jetting off to play money-spinning games around the globe.
German teams have to play a friendly or two at the end of their break as it is so long, but they are not big-ticket games. Last season Borussia Dortmund played Fortuna Duesseldorf and Zulte-Waregem while Bayern Munich took on Al-Ahli and Sonnenhof Grossaspach.
Added to that, the Premier League's break will take place at a different time to other major European leagues. However, Major League Soccer and Chinese Super League teams are into their preseason training schedules. Also, the Australian A-League teams would be available. But the Premier League is determined to prevent the break being abused for financial gain.
Winter breaks across Europe's top leagues this season
Spain: La Liga effectively has two sets of two-week breaks. The first is Dec. 21 through to Jan. 4. There is then another break through to Jan. 18. However, there will be a round of the Copa del Rey on the weekend of Jan. 11 with Spain changing its cup competition to one-legged ties and slotting the second round on a weekend. Teams from lower divisions will face La Liga teams, so many players at the top clubs may be rested.
Germany: A mammoth four-week break that begins after the games on the weekend of Dec. 21, with the Bundesliga restarting on the weekend of Jan. 18.
Italy: Another league with a two-week break. It starts following the weekend of Dec. 21 through to Jan. 4.
France: Will also begin its winter break after Dec. 21, with a three-week break before returning to action three weeks later on Jan. 11. However, there will be a round of the Coupe de France on the weekend of Jan. 4 so technically the rest will be just two weeks.
Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.