Mark Warburton says festive break is the key for players
The SPFL last week announced that the two-clear-weekend winter break will be retained next year and that the rest of the calendar will broadly follow that of this season, which brought the re-introduction of a League Cup section format and will in 2018-19 again be played over five dates in the last two weeks of July.
Warburton, pictured, sees the structure of the Scottish season as the worst of all worlds. With his hope that his team will be playing in a Europa League first-round qualifier in the last week of June, and the 10 June international date non-negotiable, some players could have practically no time off during the summer, with the Scottish Cup final on the last weekend in May.
And though the 54-year-old recognises that playing over Christmas and new year is a Scottish tradition, and tends to bring an upsurge in attendances, he believes Scotland must look to Spain for a start in an attempt to offer some real respite for players during the winter – the scheduled SPFL top-flight winter break between 1 January to 19 January affording only one full week off for players.
“I was part of the discussion. I didn’t agree with the break, I still don’t agree with the break. I agree with it if you’re going to make it longer. If you have a winter break and no chance of a summer calendar, then give the boys at least two weeks off. In some places, they finish on Christmas Eve and came back 18th or 19th. I think Spain did 18 December to 8 January.
“People have times with their families, there are no easy solutions. I’d go a longer winter break.
“The calendar is changing, the old summer break as we know it has gone or will be gone. So can you get two weeks in the winter and two in the summer? There are your four weeks off. If you can do that, then the players get a break. Not ideal, but at least you can do it. At the moment five days to a week is not enough.
“Could we find a way to do more midweek games during the season? There’s probably a reason why not. That for me was an obvious, to get more games.
“We could finish the season maybe end of April, start of May and have cup final say the sixth or 13th of May and at least have a chance of a bit longer break in the summer. I think that makes sense.
“My biggest concern is keeping the players fresh and in turn keeping the product fresh. But no one’s answering my question.”