Fixture congestion is a huge problem for English soccer teams and the Premier League. Just this week, Liverpool had to play two games in two days because they’re in the FIFA Club World Cup this year and had to field a team full of teenagers in the EFL Cup while their main team was in Qatar. Organizers see money and want to stuff every possible opening with a game to the point where there really isn’t an offseason in English soccer.
To try and alleviate a bit of fixture congestion, the Premier League is giving teams a winter break in February. In every other week, every teams plays on the same weekend, but for the weekends of February 8 and 15, teams will have a break on one of those weekends. After the busy festive period and the early FA Cup rounds in January, it’s a small effort to give teams a week break.
Some good news for fans is that on those two weeks, each game will be on TV and have an exclusive time slot. For those in England, it means every game will be broadcast instead of the usual schedule where 3 pm Saturday games (10 am et in the U.S.) are not broadcast in England. For those in the United States, it means that each game should be shown on one of the NBC networks instead of NBC Sports Gold. NBC hasn’t made anything official and plans could change but based on past instances, as long as there aren’t multiple games being played at the same time, there shouldn’t be a need for Gold.
This is the updated schedule for Matchweek 26 (times in et):
Saturday February 8 – Everton vs. Crystal Palace – 7:30 am
Saturday February 8 – Brighton vs. Watford – 12:30 pm
Sunday February 9 – Sheffield United vs. Bournemouth – 9:00 am
Sunday February 9 – Manchester City vs. West Ham – 11:30 am
Friday February 14 – Wolves vs. Leicester – 3:00 pm
Saturday February 15 – Southampton vs. Burnley – 7:30 am
Saturday February 15 – Norwich vs. Liverpool – 12:30 pm
Sunday February 16 – Aston Villa vs. Tottenham – 9:00 am
Sunday February 16 – Arsenal vs. Newcastle – 11:30 am
Monday February 17 – Chelsea vs. Manchester United – 3:00 pm
There isn’t much for the Premier League to do. With the league, FA Cup, EFL Cup, Champions League, international breaks, summer international tournaments, and preseason tours, there isn’t much space to spare to give these players a much needed break. It’ll be an interesting test to see if this has benefits not just on the players but for the fans who now get to theoretically watch more soccer on TV.