Should there be a mid season break from football?
This question is what is sometimes called an old chestnut. Every time the weather turns bad and games have to be postponed because of frozen pitches, snow, ice, or conditions which are considered unsafe or too dangerous for spectators, the cry goes up that the English league and cup programmes should be suspended for a few weeks in mid winter.
Those in favour of a mid season break point out that games will have to be postponed anyway because of the adverse weather conditions, and opine that players’ physical and mental health too will benefit from a planned and enforced break.
Some people even claim that a major reason for the failure of the English national team in the last World Cup tournament in South Africa was that our players were mentally jaded and physically tired from a long domestic season, and that a mid term break would have allowed them to recharge their batteries, and become less susceptible to injury or burnout during the second half of the season.
The majority of European footballing nations usually do take a mid season break of between two and four weeks. In some countries (such as Norway) with extremely cold winters, the break is much longer, out of necessity. It is simply not possible to play football in extreme conditions such as pertain in Norwegian winters, unless you are prepared to contemplate a new form of football played by players wearing not only gloves, snoops (as I believe those trendy mini scarves are called), and tights, but fur hats and woolly scarves too. A logical development might then be for players to dispense with boots and long studs altogether, and take to the field on skis, or on ice skates, depending on conditions underfoot.
Those opposed to the idea of a break argue that unlike those soft Europeans, the British are real men who have always played football even in cold weather, and that this is part of our culture, our tradition, and a reflection of our mental and physical superiority. They look back nostalgically to the days when our clubs often played each other twice in as many days over the festive season, and point too to the added excitement generated by the traditional Christmas and New Year programme, when games come so thick and fast over the holiday period that these few hectic days often help decide key promotion and relegation issues.
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Apart from the traditionalists, the other major objectors to the suggestion of a mid season break are the chief executives and directors of our clubs, who rub their fingers with glee at the thought of more games, and hence more receipts and cash income, over a relatively short period. They cannot (or prefer not to) countenance an enforced or self inflicted self denying ordinance of four weeks with no games and consequently no cashflow.
As far as I know no one has ever asked the players for their view, but I guess that if asked, they would prefer a break because it is less work for them and more chance to spend quality time with their families. There is also less chance of suffering an injury on a frozen surface.
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Most European countries time their two or three week mid season break to coincide with the worst of the winter weather in late December and early January. The trouble with this theory is that in England one can never predict exactly when the worst of the weather will hit.
This season we had a spate of snowy weather in late November. Some games had to be postponed as a result. Just imagine the outcry if the weather in December and January had then been fine but we had already postponed the games due to be played during that period to cater for a winter break.
Quite apart from the fixture congestion, what would have happened when the “Sun” published pictures of Shrek 3 sitting in a swimming pool in Dubai on Christmas Day whilst simultaneously smoking a cigarette and downing pints of lager, thereby fully justifying his reported �200,000 per week salary, whilst the supporters whose money pays his salary fretted at the lack of football matches and impossibility of cramming a backlog of fixtures into the remaining few weeks of the season?
If they were consulted, a majority of British football fans too would probably support a mid season break. The pre Christmas time games are often played in half empty stadia, as supporters have to fork out for gifts and other expenditure at a time when their families demand that they spend more time and money at home or in the High Street, and less at the football.
And a change is as good as a rest for the supporters too. I myself have a Filipina girlfriend, so I took the opportunity of a few days off work to leave the snowy wastes and icefields of North London and head for the sunny climes of the Philippines.
The temperature in London when I left was minus 5. The temperature in Philippines when I arrived was plus 30. There I was able to recharge my batteries, relax on the sun kissed beaches of Cebu and soak up the ambience, with a cold San Miguel beer in one hand and a hot Filipina in the other.
Now I feel refreshed (in all parts) in body and mind, and better able, willing and ready to face the rigours of the second half of the season, whatever that may bring. Because of the vagaries of the English weather, I missed only two games and I saw all the goals in two splendid victories on BBC i-player. Well played Norwich on both occasions, and special congratulations to Wes on his brilliant hat trick against the Blades.
I thought the whole team played excellently against QPR. Despite what whinging Colin Warnock had to say, the Canaries dominated the game and fully deserved their victory. Holty for England? He would certainly be a better bet than either Rooney or Heskey on current goalscoring, or even goal assisting form.
In addition the postponement at Selhurst Park allowed me to forsake my annual trek way down to the Deep South of London with a clear conscience. I loathe the trip to Palace. It is geographically the ground in London furthest removed from where I live, we always seem to play them on a Bank Holiday when there is no public transport, it always rains down there (closer to the Equator I suppose), City always play badly, and we get charged obscenely high prices for the privilege of sitting uncomfortably in their dilapidated old stadium. I could put up with any or all of the above if we were consistent winners there, but in recent years our record there has been poor. So I was pleased not to have to spend Boxing Day there this year.
So on balance, I am in favour of a mid season break. At least for myself. I have already made my booking for the Philippines for Christmas 2011. Would anyone care to join me? Or do you really prefer to freeze your nuts off on the terraces at Goodison or the JJB stadium at this time later this year or early in 2012?