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ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Premier League winter break: How it could work and when it would be

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno reacts to the news that the Premier League is considering introducing a winter break.

The Premier League in February confirmed it is open to the idea of introducing a winter break, and reports suggest it could be announced before the end of the 2017-18 season.

Here, we set out exactly how it could fit into the English calendar.

Why is the winter break being introduced?

Foreign managers have long campaigned for a winter break, as is enjoyed by all other major European leagues. It is claimed the rest benefits players for the second half of the season, especially those in the latter stages of the Champions League and the Europa League.

It is also hoped that giving England players a winter break ahead of Euro 2020 will give the national side a better chance of success. 

When would the first winter break be?

It is set to be introduced 2019-20, when the next TV deal kicks in. The recent TV rights deals, which were awarded earlier this year, were more flexible to allow for a winter break if desired and they begin in this season.

What date would the winter break start?

It is looking like a winter break would kick in at the end of January and early February. But, to satisfy the demands of TV companies, it would be a split break. That means one half of the Premier League would take two weeks off, then the other half would do the same. This would mean there are no blank weekends for broadcasting -- five games on the first weekend and five on the second. 

So the packed festive schedule will remain?

Yes, it is far too popular among fans and broadcasters. Even managers such as Arsene Wenger admit that the schedule through Christmas and the New Year is an important part of English football.

How long will the break be?

All clubs are set to be guaranteed a minimum of 13 days between games, which would mirror the system in Italy and Spain. Germany has a huge winter break; it lasted 22 days this season but was even longer in the previous campaign at 30 days. The Bundesliga has four fewer rounds of fixtures, while there is only one cup competition with single legs. 

Premier League managers have been calling for a break for many years.

Would all English football stop?

No, the EFL does not intend to follow suit even at Championship level. With 46 rounds of games to play it would struggle to find space.

What would need to be rearranged?

A full set of Premier League games would need to slot in somewhere else in the calendar, and moving a round of the FA Cup looks set to be the remedy here.

Also, the second legs of the Carabao Cup semifinals are usually scheduled during this period, and it has been reported that the EFL is prepared to discuss cutting this to a single-legged tie.

Would the FA Cup be affected?

It had been suggested that the competition could move to midweek, leaving all weekends free for Premier League football. However, lucrative TV and sponsorship deals have already been signed and sealed and there is no real appetite to devalue the importance of the cup this way. 

But it is reported that agreement has been reached to move the FA Cup fifth round to midweek, and to scrap replays for this round too. Any drawn ties would go to extra time and penalties. Replays would still remain in the third and fourth rounds.

What is unclear is how the FA Cup fourth round will fit into the equation. This is usually scheduled for the last weekend of January, which would be right in the middle of the staggered winter break with most Premier League clubs expected to be taking part. 

Is the winter break really going to make a difference?

A good question. Any team that gets knocked out of the FA Cup in the early rounds effectively gets an extended break anyway. 

This season Liverpool had 10 days off in February after their fourth-round exit, and jetted off to Marbella in Spain for warm-weather training. And 12 months earlier, after being knocked out at the same stage, they flew out to Spain as they were without a game for 16 days between Feb. 11 and 27. 

In fact most Premier League clubs already jet out for warm weather training even without an official winter break.

Will teams go off and play glamour friendlies?

An interesting point. German teams have to play a friendly or two at the end of their break as it is so long, but they are not big-ticket games. This month Borussia Dortmund played Fortuna Duesseldorf and Zulte-Waregem while Bayern Munich took on Al-Ahli and Sonnenhof Grossaspach.

However, if Premier League teams suddenly become available to play matches out in the gulf states in January, with big sponsorship deals on the table, it would be no surprise to see such fixtures crop up. In 2012, AC Milan played Pars Saint-Germain in Dubai and most top clubs head there for warm weather training. 

But the Premier League's break is currently scheduled to take place at a different time to other major European leagues, so the kind of clubs that would attract the big-money friendlies would not be available. 

Winter breaks across Europe this season

Spain:  A two-week break that ran from Saturday, Dec. 23 to Saturday, Jan. 6. However, the Copa del Rey had fixtures on Jan. 3 and 4, so most major teams had a break of less than two weeks.

Germany: A mammoth four-week break that began after the games on the weekend of Dec. 16, with the Bundesliga restarting on Friday, Jan. 12. A handful of teams, including Bayern and Dortmund, did have to play DFB Pokal ties on the midweek of Dec. 20, however. The league splits its programme in half -- 17 matches before Christmas and 17 after.

Italy: Another league with a two-week break, and one that would match the Premier League's likely plan. It started on Saturday, Jan. 6 through to Sunday, Jan. 21.

France: Began its winter break after a midweek round on Dec. 20, and returned to action just over three weeks later. However, there was a round of the Coupe de France on the weekend of Jan. 6 so technically the rest was just over two weeks.

Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

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