English football will incorporate a mid-season break into its schedule from the 2019-20 season, it was announced today (Friday).
The English Football Association (FA), the top-tier Premier League and the English Football League – which operates the three tiers below the top flight – have agreed to introduce a two-week break in February.
The break will be structured to ensure that Premier League matches would still be played every weekend during this period. Five will be played on the first weekend and five on the following weekend.
The FA has agreed to move the fifth round of the FA Cup to midweek to incorporate the break. Fifth-round replays will also be removed from the 2019-20 season and replaced with extra time and penalties. Third and fourth-round replays, a key revenue-generator for lower league clubs, will remain in place.
The EFL’s three divisions – the Championship, League One and League Two – will remain unchanged, with a full league programme for all 72 clubs to take place on each weekend of the mid-season 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.
“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. 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.”
Outgoing Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore added: “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.
“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.”
EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “We very much understand and support the requirement and wishes of our colleagues across the game to introduce a mid-season player break. We hope it will provide the appropriate recovery time for players and have the positive impact on player and team performance that it is designed to deliver.
“At the same time we must acknowledge that fixture congestion remains a challenge and with a 46-game season to complete, plus the play-offs inside a 10-month period, it is currently impractical even if it was desirable for the EFL to introduce a similar break in our competitions. We will look to showcase the Sky Bet EFL during the two-week period.”