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Winter break back on Premier League menu

Monday, 15 October 2012 - 12:17pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Scudamore says FA Cup replays might have to go to accommodate mid-season time-out for a fortnight.

Richard Scudamore has revealed that the Premier League is exploring options to introduce a winter break but given a clear hint that an end to FA Cup replays could be the only way for it to be fitted in to the season.

Roy Hodgson recently joined Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini in advocating a winter break, saying: "It would be lovely to think that one day we could all get together and say, 'England is important'."

However, speaking exclusively to The Daily Telegraph, Premier League chief executive Scudamore has admitted that the three key stakeholders in the English game - the Football Association, Premier League and Football League - have yet to solve how a winter break could be made to work with the current fixture list.

With FA Cup replay dates potentially taking fixture space on four midweeks in the second half of the season between the third and sixth rounds, Scudamore believes the ball is in the FA's court should they wish to introduce a winter break for the benefit of the England team.

"We have tried, but unless somebody is prepared to give something up, it is pretty hard." said Scudamore, speaking at the launch of the 18 million pounds Premier League Community Facility Fund. "We are not inclined to reduce the number of clubs in the Premier League - if you were running a theatre and had 380 nights that you wanted to sell, why would you throw 60 or 70 of those nights away?

"Similarly, the Football League do not want to lose the League Cup. It's a huge source of funding for the Football League and it is a big solidarity play between the leagues. As for the FA, they don't want to give up replays in the FA Cup, so we all sit down and we all look at each other, but it's pretty hard for those of us in English football to create that two-week space.

"Nobody has asked the Football League to give up the League Cup, but why would we? We are huge supporters of it and we wouldn't have the temerity to alter the FA Cup either. That will be up to the FA, but unless the FA decide they have different priorities, where the England team is more important than something else they own, then that might be for them to look at."

Despite the firmly-held positions of each organisation, Scudamore insists the Premier League is open to the prospect of a winter break and has explored potential options.

"We offered to start the season a week early, which is difficult in terms of summer holidays, but we don't really want to be starting the season in July," Scudamore said.

"You can understand why the 20 Premier League clubs, having come down from 22 to 20 [in 1995], are disinclined to reduce their games, from 380 games to something like 316 or 308 games. But if you look at who is taking more dates out of the calendar, it is Uefa and Fifa. They are the ones who have come along and taken the dates, not us. The August friendly has gone, but they are replacing it with nine weekend double-headers over two years, which rules more weekends out for us. It's a small consolation, but it has actually made things worse."

Although the perennial conflict of club versus country is at the heart of the winter break debate, Scudamore acknowledges that the Premier League benefited hugely from the feelgood factor generated by Euro 96, the last major football tournament staged in England.

Since then, the Premier League has joined forces with the FA on the failed bids to stage the 2006 and 2018 World Cups, but with Uefa struggling to find a suitable host for Euro 2020 - the format of the competition is also under review - Scudamore admits the Premier League would welcome a bid to host the tournament.

"We all remember Euro 96 and what a boost that was for football," Scudamore said. "I think when the story of the Premier League is written, don't underestimate the turbo charge we all got from football coming home in 1996. It's a component part of why the Premier League is successful, so would the Premier League get a boost from Euro 2020? Absolutely, yes. That's why we were 100 per cent behind, and funded, the 2006 and 2018 (World Cup) bids.

"We were there on the day, doing what we could. It clearly wasn't enough, but we would be there once again if we go for 2020. It is up for the FA to sit down and constitutionally decide, but the Premier League would always be there, as we have been with every bid the FA has wanted to make."

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