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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 14:20 GMT



By Simon Austin

Wayne Rooney
A winter break should help prevent injuries to our top players

Senior Premier League players have demanded a winter break in a survey conducted by BBC Sport.

The players' union representative at each Premier League club was contacted - and 13 of the 15 who responded called for a mid-season break.

Everton and England defender Phil Neville told BBC Sport: "It will get the players fresh and revitalised.

"Then England might go into a European Championship or World Cup fresher and with a better chance of winning."

England and Portugal are the only major leagues in Europe without a mid-season break.

BBC Sport has discovered widespread support for the introduction of a break in the Premier League programme:

  • Uefa believes it could dramatically reduce the number of injuries sustained by players in the run-up to major championships. They say there are four times as many injuries in the Premier League in April and May as in leagues with a winter break.

  • Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson argues England would have a better chance of success in major tournaments if a break was introduced

  • England international Phil Neville believes more players could retire from international duty unless something is done to improve their schedule

  • Of the 15 players who responded to the BBC survey, eight admitted they had experienced burnout during the season

  • The Premier League advocates a break, but says the current schedule makes it impractical
Manchester City boss Eriksson pushed for a winter break when he was England manager - and is still in favour.

"I'm sure it would be very good for English football, at both club and international level," he told BBC Sport.

SELECTED QUOTES FROM QUESTIONNAIRES
If we don't have one, players will be burnt out or carrying injuries come major championships


110% yes! We should have a break in January


It would be a massive lift for everyone connected to football clubs, except perhaps the money men


Why are we different to the rest of Europe when it comes to this?


A chance to recharge batteries and overcome injury niggles

"If the will is there, you could easily fit it in. I am sure it would be good for the national team when they go to a big tournament and for the clubs playing in Europe. They would be fresher at the end of the season.

"You would then have time to heal small injuries and recover mentally. Talking to all the managers in this country - as I have done - they all agree.

"And I'm sure you can't find one football player here who wouldn't love to have a break."

Neville, who is the PFA representative at Everton, called for a campaign to be started for the introduction of a winter break.

"It's something all the top managers - Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger - all want," he said.

"There needs to be one hell of a campaign for it. The top managers, footballers, supporters and television people are all going to have to get round a table and say 'this is what's best for English football'.

"The other best leagues in the world - Italy, Spain and Germany - have a winter break, so why doesn't England?"

Medical evidence seems to support the introduction of a break.

Jan Ekstrand, vice chair of Uefa's medical committee, has carried out detailed research on the subject.

He told BBC Sport: "What we found was that in the first part of the season, up to December, the injuries were about the same for the English teams and teams from other parts of Europe.

"But in the last part of the season there was a higher injury risk in England.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Matt Slater

"The amazing thing was that the risk was about double in January, February and March, but in April and May it was four times higher compared to teams that do have a winter break.

"We don't know the exact reason, but it's reasonable to assume it could be correlated to the lack of a winter break."

He also believes the metatarsal injuries suffered by England stars such as Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and Gary Neville in recent seasons can be partly attributed to the lack of a winter break.

"We have collected x-rays for players suffering from metatarsal fractures and can see that they have stress signs on the metatarsal bones," Ekstrand told BBC Sport.

"We consider most of them stress injuries - the bone is weakened by fatigue of the bone.

"We know from other sports that if you continue and don't have a rest, you have problem with injuries."

Yet the domestic schedule seems to preclude the introduction of a mid-season break.

Premier League spokesman Dan Johnson explained: "In principle we agree with a winter break, but we have yet to work out logistically how that would fit in.

"Nobody has come up with a plan that would mean we could fit all our fixtures into the season.

"In England, we're in a fairly strange position in that we have two Cup competitions.

"Unless those competitions change their format and how they operate, be it replays or two-legged semi-finals, there is just not space for it to fit a break in."



SEE ALSO
Ferguson calls for winter break
04 Sep 06 |  Man Utd
FA targets winter break
04 Jul 04 |  England
FA chief backs winter break
10 Jan 04 |  Premier League
Wenger predicts winter break
04 Jan 04 |  Premier League
Eriksson criticises fixture list
10 May 03 |  Football
Crozier's winter break crusade
29 Aug 02 |  Football
Owen supports winter break
09 Aug 02 |  Liverpool
Eriksson's winter break call
16 Mar 02 |  World Cup 2002


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