Premier League to have a winter break but proposal leaves little room for innovation
Premier League clubs will have a winter break of some description from the 2019/20 season onwards.
Though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Premier League itself will take a break.
Unlike the phenomenon in other European leagues, England will only give its clubs one week off and it will be staggered: ten teams will play one weekend and the other ten will play the next.
The question of a winter break in England is one of the questions that’s been around the game for years. The arguments are plentiful and some of them compelling: from giving players a few weeks off for their own wellbeing, to other arguments such as helping English clubs in European competition and the national side at summer tournaments.
The arguments against have to do with tradition and the spectacle itself: games over the Christmas and New Year period are treasured and the chaos it creates is part of the league’s charm.
A compromised seems to have been reached in the sense that there will be some sort of break to give players a week off, though it won’t much disrupt the flow of the season.
From a commercial and indeed digital point of view, this is quite interesting. A winter break which sees all of the clubs have a few weeks off – as is the case in other leagues – would mean absolutely no football to keep fans entertained, and very little opportunity to keep social media accounts ticking over.
In Germany, the Bundesliga has one of the longest breaks in the big European leagues and presents a unique challenge to those working behind the scenes on digital media.
Keeping the amount of content on social media high is hard when there are no actual games to speak of, and indeed when players are jetting off on holidays or are away with their teams to warm weather training – meaning there are few interview and video chances, too.
The Bundesliga’s answer to this over the last few years has been the annual BunDucksLiga rubber duck race.
That might sound like a bullet dodged for the Premier League and its teams in some ways. They don’t have to think up alternate content to keep fans retweeting and sharing during the break. But a winter break may well provide leagues in Germany, Spain and France with the perfect opportunity to do something more adventurous: hosting mid-season esports tournaments which they can hype up in the absence of the actual football could be one example.
That’s not to say that the Premier League’s compromise is the wrong way to go about things. In fact, ensuring that there is no actual gap for fans even though the players will get a break appears to be the perfect mix between protecting the players and keeping fans interested. In many ways it’s a smart compromise.
But for other leagues, the winter break is still a chance to do something different. More and more top football divisions getting formally involved in FIFA leagues, with La Liga especially solidifying its offering. If the Premier League wants to get involved in this space, a mid-season hiatus might just have been the perfect opportunity to do it.
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