FA and Premier League agree on two-week mid-season break from 2019-20
The FA Cup’s fifth round moves to midweek and replays are scrapped, while a round of Premier League games is stretched over two weekends.
The Football Association has announced a deal with the Premier League to introduce a mid-season break in February from the 2019-20 season onward.
After years of deadlock on the issue, the FA and the league have finally found a compromise that should give players more rest without upsetting the broadcasters and sponsors too much.
To make room for the two-week break, the FA Cup’s fifth-round ties will be played midweek and will be settled on the night, while a round of Premier League fixtures will be played over two weekends, with five games one weekend and five the next.
The Football Association, Premier League and EFL have today announced a new annual Mid-Season Player Break, starting from the 2019/20 season. Full story: https://t.co/jVwrGrXsQU. pic.twitter.com/62akmxsMXg— FA Spokesperson (@FAspokesperson) June 8, 2018
The break will only apply to the Premier League, though, with a full English Football League programme continuing over the break.
In a statement, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said he supported the creation of a break for the top flight but “it is currently impractical even if it was desirable for the EFL” to do likewise because of the scheduling challenges of playing 46-game seasons and play-offs.
While some may be disappointed about the loss of replays in the FA Cup’s fifth round and the EFL’s failure to find room to give its players some rest, the fact the FA and Premier League have managed to find an answer to one of English football’s oldest debates should be welcomed.
The FA’s chief executive Martin Glenn said: “This is a significant moment for English football and one we believe will greatly benefit both club and country.
“It’s no secret that we have a very congested fixture calendar and over recent years we have been working with the whole game to find a solution.
“Today’s announcement proves that football can come together for the good of the game. We have also found a way to give the players a much needed mid-season break, whilst keeping the much-loved Christmas schedule in place.”
The deal is also another box ticked for Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore, who stunned the game on Thursday by announcing his decision to step down later this year after nearly two decades in the job.
“We have been discussing the football calendar with the FA and EFL for several months, including ways we can work together to ease fixture congestion, keep the Premier League action going right through the season and provide a mid-season player break,” Scudamore said.
“We are very pleased to have an outcome that will include an exciting first for fans – a full fixture programme split over two weekends with all matches broadcast live in the UK.”
That last point is a reference to another of the deals he has announced in the last 24 hours: the sale of the remaining UK broadcast rights for 2019-22, with BT buying a package which will allow it to show all five games from one of the split weekends, while Sky shows the games from the other.
NEWS: BT Sport will show a further 20 Premier League matches each season 🙌— BT Sport (@btsport) June 7, 2018
We'll now bring you 52 exclusively live Premier League football games per season for three years from 2019/20.
Full story 👉 https://t.co/mAeFjyNLSE pic.twitter.com/qMp7TaDXfn
The FA is also hoping its recent broadcast deals will smooth over any opposition from clubs upset about FA Cup replays disappearing in another round of the competition, as the prize fund for the competition is set to double from next season.
The news might have come too late to help England manager Gareth Southgate in this summer’s World Cup but it does come on the same day as a call from world footballers’ union FIFPro for minimum mid-season breaks of 10 days, more rest between games and much longer off-season breaks.
There is clearly much more conversation to be had to achieve those last two aims, and critics will note the English break will still be shorter than all the other major European leagues’ breaks, but England managers, FA executives, players and the owners of warm-weather training centres will not be complaining too loudly today.