Barry McEvoy believes solutions should be devised to limit the impact the weather has on football fixtures in England, but doesn’t think a three-week winter break is beneficial to English football – as its European counterparts enjoy the first week of a three week mid-season break.
This past weekend in the Premier League was a relatively dismal one, only three games were played out of the ten that were scheduled and none of the three set the world alight. Arguably the biggest game in the Premier League at the moment was called off on Sunday, when Chelsea were set to play Man United at Stamford Bridge. The reason given was that public transport was very limited. Surely with twenty-eight hours left before the game, the fans could have organised alternative routes to the game?
The top leagues around Europe have all begun their winter breaks, except for Ligue 1 in France, their final round until the new year is being played tonight. Arsene Wenger recently stated his opinion that the English Premier League should switch the whole season around and play from February to November, that’d be a bit extreme if you ask me. What about the World Cup or European Championship seasons? What about the Champions League? ‘Summer football’ works in the League of Ireland because players in the League of Ireland don’t tend to be picked for World Cup squads and our teams only have a very slim chance of getting into the groups of the Champions League or Europa League. But if I was a managing one of England’s top sides I certainly wouldn’t want to be entering the group stages of a European competition just as the domestic season was drawing to a close.
I don’t think a winter break would be a good idea for the Premier League at all. They would have to alter the season in some way, either bringing the season forward or extending it for a couple of weeks. Then what do you do on World Cup years? International managers will want their players as quickly as possible before the tournament, so they wouldn’t want the season extended and some of the ‘stars’ even took an extended break after the World Cup, so they couldn’t bring it forward. Then you have a potential fixture pile up with the FA Cup, League Cup and European competitions alongside the Premier League. But the worst if it all is that there’d be no Christmas football! For me personally, football on St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day, as it’s known in the United Kingdom) is as much of a Christmas tradition as having turkey for Christmas dinner.
The players that complain about playing in the cold should just follow their peers and invest in a snood, gloves and even tights if needs be. The Everton players showed how it should be done when they played Manchester City on Monday night in the City of Manchester Stadium. While the City players came out all covered up in tights, bodywarmers, gloves and snoods, the Toffees dressed like they would if they had been playing in Madrid in August. Perhaps this gave David Moyes’ side the edge as they ran out 2-1 winners, despite being on the back foot for most of the game.
The Championship clash at Portman Road between Ipswich Town and Leicester City was the height of controversy over the weekend as referee Stuart Atwell hauled the players off the field midway through the second half for fifteen minutes to have some of the snow cleared from the field and the lines repainted. He deemed the pitch playable earlier in the day but continuous snow throughout the day in Ipswich meant that the pitch was covered in a blanket of snow by kick-off and the pitch markings weren’t visible. Perhaps the best option would have been to call the game off rather than giving the players a rest every now and then. Had the score been 0-0 when he took the players off he probably would have called the game off, but considering that Ipswich were leading 3-0 at the time, I doubt he would have wanted to endure the verbal assault that he would have undoubtedly received from Roy Keane Could you blame the man?!
Blackpool seem to be the only club who’s pitch is the problem as they have no undersoil heating, should this be a requirement for all Premier League stadia? The rest of the games look like they’re called off due to dangers around the stadium with ice and snow, could the city councils not work with the football clubs to fix that problem? Whatever the decision is, I hope the FA or Premier League bosses make one soon, because I don’t think it’s fair on the loyal fans that travel home and away to watch their team every week to spend money on train tickets or hotel booking fees only to find out that the game has been cancelled. Selfishly, I hope they don’t have a winter break, but maybe it is the best option to have a week or two off during the Christmas week so players can spend some time with their families and rest any slight niggles that they may have. A break, perhaps from the seventeenth of December to the first of January would be suitable, especially if this harsh outbreak of weather continues in future years. But certainly, not the three weeks that most European leagues enjoy from the week before Christmas onwards.