4 reasons why the EFL also needs a winter break
With the Premier League embarking on a winter break over the next fortnight, Will Rook discusses why he thinks it should be extended to the lower leagues.
The Premier League falls in line with every other major European league this week, with a winter break (of sorts) being implemented for the first time.
After considerable pressure, it was agreed that each team would have a 13-day respite from top-flight fixtures worked into their schedule.
The EFL, however, will continue as normal throughout the two-week period in which the top tier fixtures are staggered.
Here are four reasons why the lower leagues deserve a fortnight off, too.
There are more games
If the Premier League schedule is punishing, then the EFL’s is torturous.
Teams in the Championship, League One and League Two all start their season a week earlier than sides in the Premier League and play a minimum of eight extra league games.
That becomes 10 or 11 if that team qualifies for the play-offs, while sides in League One and Two also have the EFL Trophy to contend with.
So that’s at least three more matches in the group stage and potentially five more if they get to the final.
A League One side that makes it to both the EFL Trophy final and play-off final in the same season are looking at 19 games more than the Premier League schedule – and that’s excluding the FA Cup and EFL Cup.
Sunderland did just that last season, clocking up 61 competitive games despite getting knocked out of the EFL Cup at the first hurdle and only making it the FA Cup third round.
Even at this stage of this season, each EFL side has played anywhere between two and six more league games than any team in the top flight.
International weekends aren’t free
The idea that players in the EFL get an additional break over those in the Premier League doesn’t check out.
It’s business as usual in Leagues One and League Two, where fixtures don’t stop over international weekends.
Postponements can be requested by clubs that have three or more players who have been called up for their country, but the majority of games go ahead as normal.
During the last international break in November, 15 of the scheduled 23 matches were played.
While the Championship does pause with the Premier League, each squad has an average of nine international players.
As a result, only a small proportion of EFL players actually get a break during the international period.
The only other opportunity for respite comes on FA Cup second round weekend, with clubs in Leagues One and Two given the week off if they have already been knocked out.
That means, for the majority of players, there is no time off between August and May.
We’d have better performing home nations
Having been suggested in the aftermath of every England tournament no-show, one of the reasons for introducing the mid-season break was to help the national team.
Former FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn confirmed as much at the time of announcement two years ago, saying that the FA was “sure that this mid-season break will prove a valuable addition for our players”.
“I think you will see it in better-rested players and… England players more rested for tournaments,” he said.
Using the same logic, extending the mid-season break to the EFL would be even more beneficial for England, along with the rest of the home nations and Republic of Ireland.
During the last international break, there were six EFL players in the England Under-21 squad, with another six having been called up in the previous 12 months.
There were also a further 14 EFL players in a 21-man Under-20s squad.
Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, called up 37 players from the Championship, League One and League Two last November.
It would make playing in the EFL a more attractive prospect
Footballers don’t need much of an excuse to reject a move lower down the pyramid.
Financially, the EFL simply can’t compete with the Premier League while, in terms of prestige, it’s way behind.
The lure of first-team football can only go so far when asking a player to pick between the plush surroundings of a top-flight club and a side from the lower leagues.
So asking them to also give up a guaranteed two-week break is not going to tempt them otherwise.
Adding a winter break into the EFL calendar would undoubtedly go some way to redressing the balance.
Visit Betway's football betting page.