Published on January 8th, 2018 | by Bill

Balls to a winter break, fans need their festive football.

So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. Except Premier League types, who are mulling over their annual whine about player fatigue while the winter break debate rumbles on. The same Premier League types that pack their players off for lucrative globetrotting pre-season tours with barely a whimper as to their need for proper summer rest.

Pep Guardiola bleated that the fixture list is going to ‘kill’ his players despite City travelling to oh so local venues Houston, Los Angeles, Nashville and Reykjavik for matches over a two week period last summer. There seemed to be fewer complaints from the City camp when embarking on the two thousand mile journey between LA and Nashville for City’s second match in four days in July.

City also played a friendly game in Girona, Spain, three days after their first Premier League fixture of the season in August but then fixture pileups may be less of an issue when you are playing a club owned by Man City and connected to Guardiola’s brother/agent.

Let’s not forget too, that with the ludicrous riches at their disposal, Guardiola could pack all his first choice players off for a fortnight in Abu Dhabi with the Premier League still running and retain a comfortable lead at the top.

Elsewhere, West Brom made a formal complaint to the Premier League over their ‘terrible’ festive fixture congestion after being asked to play twice in three days. Of course, the Baggies went to China for pre-season, as you do, enduring “near 30C heat and 82 per cent humidity” in “punishing conditions” during a match that went to penalties in Hong Kong V Leicester City.  Another match followed 3 days later leaving the Birmingham Mail to state the obvious that ‘the trip has clearly carried a commercial objective’.

Putting aside the significance of a proper ‘out season’ break over an ‘in season’ one, the Mirror’s Brian Reade wrote an eviscerating piece accusing Premier League Chairmen of ‘selective amnesia’ in ‘voting unanimously to shoehorn extra televised games into their already heavy schedule’ while complaining about an overload of games.

‘Allowing TV companies to cherry-pick and stagger their choice of games across a number of days will inevitably lead to such disparities’ argued Reade pertinently before adding ‘selling them a fresh slate of TV slots means that will only get worse.Yet (West Brom Chairman) Williams and all the other chairmen not only gave the green light for this congested run of fixtures, but for an even more chaotic one down the line.’

Indeed, talk of a winter break would not be so bad if it came hand in hand with discussions over the reduction of the Premier League to its original brief of 18 clubs and other moves to truly benefit the national team and the welfare of players in England accross the board but that is not the case. 

The lower leagues too must be considered and, with many clubs existing hand to mouth, the impact of a lull in winter fixtures could put them on a financial precipice.

Finally as always, considered last, football’s eternal afterthought, the supporters, the people that might actually look forward to matches to break the grey, depressing monotony of English winter. The ones that don’t have the luxury of first class travel yet still go keenly to matches throughout the dark months.

Give them their festive football as it’s the last thing they’ve got left.

Written for STAND, by Tom Reed

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