The FA, Premier League and EFL today announced the introduction of a winter break in English football for the first time, starting from the 2019/20 season.
Taking place in February, the two-week winter break will see a round of Premier League games split over two weekends with the fifth round of the FA Cup moving to midweek.
Fifth round replays will also be scrapped, replaced with extra time and penalties, to accommodate the change.
The EFL will remain unchanged, with all 72 EFL clubs playing on each of the weekends during the new winter break.
FA chief executive Martin Glenn said: “This is a significant moment for English football and one that 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.
“As we head into summer international tournaments in the future we are sure that this mid-season break will prove to be a valuable addition for our players.”
Despite the footballing authorities pressing ahead with the winter break, FSF research shows that match-going fans are largely opposed to its introduction.
Our 2016 survey on the Whole Game Solution, a raft of proposals brought forward by the EFL to address fixture congestion, showed the winter break was an unpopular proposal with most fans absolutely (37%) or broadly (24%) opposed to the idea.
The following year the idea still only enjoyed minority support – with a 34.6% fans taking part in the National Supporters Survey backing the winter break, even if Christmas and New Year fixtures were protected.
An FSF spokesperson said: “It’s clear that fans are unconvinced about the case for a winter break. Our latest National Supporters Survey showed only a third back the idea, even if it retained the Christmas and New Years’ fixtures – we remain opposed to the loss of FA Cup replays and moving the fifth round to mid-week, eroding the Cup’s rich heritage.
“We are disappointed that supporters’ views have been outweighed by other factors in this decision. We urge the FA to use its record broadcasting revenues to lessen the impact on fans forced to make another mid-week trip and ensure a healthy future for its flagship competition.
“Supporter representatives on the FA Council will continue their efforts to mitigate the disruption these games will inevitably cause with a focus on travel and ticket subsidies.”
Thanks to Andrew Wilkinson for the image used in this article. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.