The Premier League’s packed winter schedule is unpopular amongst players and managers, and is one of the major scheduling concerns for them. With the increased number of games in a short time period this can lead to an increase in injuries – and there is evidence that supports this claim.
However, should the Premier League’s packed winter schedule be ditched? Well there are numerous reasons to support this. Firstly – other leagues throughout Europe don’t have this issue, including the cricket and rugby union schedules, which are still massively popular sports in England. The entire rugby calendar will be scheduled around the Rugby World Cup 2023, with everything being focussed around producing the best possible tournament, whereas the Football World Cup has historically been placed at the end of a packed season, and the upcoming Qatar 2022 World Cup will see Premier League players needing to play the tournament in the middle of the season with just a short break either side. Secondly, both the player’s injuries and the fans’ unhappiness can be mitigated. The first one is easy – no more matches during international breaks (where players will also get injured), however fans must be compensated somehow. One suggestion includes increasing FA Cup prize money for teams outside of the top six who make it deep into the competition, giving them a financial boost to compensate for any lost revenue during their league games that aren’t televised due to being played at inconvenient times. Another solution could include increasing TV revenue and using this to give each team a ‘golden cheque’ which they can use as prize money for winning the league. This could be split equally amongst all 20 teams, as opposed to the top six as is often the case.
The packed winter schedule isn’t the only scheduling problem that football fans face however – there is also an issue with holiday football. For instance, Boxing Day fixtures prevent fans from travelling long distances (especially those in London), and New Year’s Eve games encourage binge drinking and typically feature some of the worst football of any day (due to players likely being hungover). Removing these problematic match days would be perfect for fans throughout England, but this doesn’t mean it should come at the expense of the packed winter schedule – especially as there are solutions to the issues that arise due to the latter.
This is only one issue with football scheduling in England though, so what else can be improved? The FA Cup third round should take place before Christmas, rather than after it (as is often the case) so fans aren’t forced to choose between watching their team’s biggest game of the season or spending time with their families on Christmas Day. Also, if the FA Cup final was earlier in May this would allow more time for players who are participating at Euro 2016 to rest after their international duty ends. Additionally, our mid-week evening kick-offs need further emphasis put upon them – they are commonly moved for TV purposes which annoys fans; if they are moved then it should be to a better time, not something that causes even more inconvenience. Lastly, there is always room for improvement when it comes to the FA Cup – the schedule of replays needs some tweaking so teams aren’t forced to play against each other three times in just over two weeks.
There are numerous reasons why the Premier League’s winter schedule should be ditched. There are ways of mitigating any issues that arise from doing so, and this would allow fans- especially those travelling long distances- an easier life. The packed winter schedule isn’t something that is unique to England, but appears much more frequently here than in Europe or other sports such as Rugby and Cricket which have a massive following in England yet don’t face these issues. We are excited to see the outcome of the upcoming report from sports marketing agency CHEAT and Factory Weights, on the impact of prolonged and packed sporting schedules on performance – it should be an interesting read!