The prospect of a winter break is closer than ever with the Premier League happy in principle to introduce it from the 2019/20 season, Sky Sports understands.
From February 2020, Premier League clubs will have a staggered break that will guarantee all 20 clubs at least 13 days between games.
Here, we take a detailed look at how the proposal works, the possible pitfalls and what needs to happen next for it to go through…
What is the proposal?
The proposed change would allow for an annual two-week break in early February from 2020 onwards that would allow all Premier League clubs to have at least 13 days off.
It would be staggered so there would be no weekend without Premier League football because there would be five games on the first weekend and five on the following weekend.
Teams in the Football League would not be directly involved in the winter break as the need for each team to play 46 matches requires every available weekend to be used.
However, the proposal also needs the fifth round of the FA Cup to be moved to midweek with no replays in order to accommodate this break for Premier League teams.
Will it be going ahead?
Both the Premier League and the Football League are happy with the plan that has been proposed as it stands. The decision now rests with the Football Association.
Given that previous England manager have pushed hard for the introduction of a winter break the onus will be on the country’s governing body to agree to the proposals.
Will it help England?
This is a key question. The idea is that this can help England in the very first season when they will expect to go to Euro 2020. Many former England managers have argued for this.
The constant grind of Premier League football, famous for its intensity, is wearing on players, particularly over Christmas. This would allow them some respite after that hectic period.
Craig Bellamy says England would be more successful with a winter break
Winter breaks happen elsewhere. Scotland have a 19-day break. The Bundesliga gets the best part of a month off. France has 24 days, Spain has 18 days and Italy get 16 days.
The argument is that this gives them competitive advantage but current boss Gareth Southgate is more philosophical about it and is not so convinced it will make a huge difference.
So what are the issues?
Firstly, the change is not so dramatic. Everton, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Watford each had breaks of at least 13 days between games this February.
Players will still need to train for the second game so it is not a full fortnight of rest either, particularly when clubs could use the break to take players away instead.
Expert view: Ray Wilkins
“I am a bit like Gareth Southgate on this,” Ray Wilkins tells Sky Sports. “Why not get the season done quicker, give the guys a couple of weeks off away from football, then bring them back for a mini pre-season before the tournament? That is the other argument to it.
“There are ones that may need a mental break to get away from it. But are they going to get away from it or are they going to go abroad with their clubs? If they are going away from it with their families I am all for it. If it’s total time off then I am easy with that.
“But if a club turns around and says that they have five days off and their sponsors want them to be in Abu Dhabi then I am not for it at all because that’s not a break. You are sitting on an aeroplane and you will have to train a little bit too.”