Club Focus – Arsenal – Wenger seeks to revolutionise the football calendar, but will it work in practice?

With the weather conditions ensuring there is little happening on the pitch to occupy Arsene Wenger’s attention, he has turned his focus to off-field matters. Already an advocate of following other European countries and introducing a winter break, the manager has taken the opportunity provided by England’s cold snap to re-assert his beliefs.

Of course, his side are currently benefiting from a winter break of sorts, with the club’s next potential fixture a full fortnight since their last outing. This is, however, through necessity rather than design. Speaking to the club’s official magazine, the Frenchman proposed to alter the traditional football English football calendar to run from February to November: “I think overall, in the whole world, football should be played between February and November, and then you could organise it for winter.” This would have the immediate benefit of avoiding the difficulties of seasonal weather conditions that are so cruelly highlighted at present. Additionally, the gruelling festive schedule would be dispensed with, theoretically ensuring players are fresher from having a less condensed itinerary. Given Arsenal’s recent history with long-term injury absentees, the manager’s hope to reduce fixture congestion is understandable.

Wenger’s ideological musings were made in response to suggestions of a winter World Cup, given Qatar’s successful 2022 bid. He cited the scorching summer conditions in the desert state, as being a “big problem,” before lending his support to the first winter World Cup in history: “Why not? I’m not against that at all.” Although London rarely reaches the heat and humidity of Doha, the valid argument against playing in scorching conditions is a major stumbling block to Wenger’s proposals of playing throughout England’s summer. Furthermore, the change would have to be introduced across the continent to fit in with UEFA club competitions, leaving football in countries such as Spain, Portugal, France and Italy severely affected.

Similarly, there is an economic argument against re-scheduling the football season. With the majority of the population benefiting from reduced hours over the festive period, the Christmas boost to matchday revenue would be lost if Wenger’s proposals were to be adopted. There is also the particularly lucrative television broadcasting revenues to consider and doing away with the Christmas fixtures may adversely affect what is quickly becoming the modern club’s staple diet. Similarly, gate receipts are likely to dwindle during the summer months as fans take holidays abroad in what is currently the off-season. The latest suggestions come in the wake of November’s comments suggesting a month be dedicated to international qualifiers and friendlies. Quite where this notion fits into the grand scheme of things is unclear.

Wenger’s methods in terms of training and diet met with derision at first, but quickly became common practice. Although he has the potential to be just as revolutionary, by shaking up the football calendar, English tradition appears set to defend the festive fixtures.

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