Most of Britain is getting back to work Tuesday but for most English Premier League soccer players the festive holiday hardly started.
The Premier League (EPL) is a billion-dollar business — its latest domestic deal for TV rights grossed over $8 billion — but its chiefs have been criticized for the fairness of fixture scheduling over the Christmas and New Year period.
Title chasing Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United have all played two matches in 48 hours while league leaders Chelsea are enjoying three days’ rest before its next match Wednesday.
“It is, in 20 years, the most uneven Christmas period I have seen on the fixture front,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters.
“The difference of rest periods is unbelievable, compared to the other teams.”
The festive schedule is traditionally as tightly stuffed as a turkey — but for some more than others over the last few days.
While table toppers Chelsea have three games in 10 days, Liverpool and Manchester United faced three matches in seven days while Arsenal have played three games in nine days.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp echoed Wenger’s sentiments after his side’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland Monday, revealing he had even offered his players a chance to sit out the second match in three days.
“We can play better football but I’m not sure if you can play better with that break,” Klopp pointedly told BBC Sport. “I don’t how it feels when you have to do the things you have to do today.
“I told the players if nobody wanted to play I would never speak about it and not tell anyone, but nobody came and that was a good thing.”
Jose Mourinho, manager of Manchester United, joined in the chorus of managerial disapproval: “It’s very difficult to play football in these circumstances with 48 hours in between. It is very hard for the players.”
The Premier League did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on its fixture scheduling.
CNN Sport anchor Alex Thomas says the unbalanced schedule is food for thought for the Premier League bosses: “It is something they have to look at because it’s not fair. These games coming in quick succession are so important to the title race.”
Unlike the Premier League, leading soccer leagues in France, Germany, Italy, Scotland and Spain all take a winter sabbatical.
The Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore suggested in the summer to UK broadcaster Sky Sports that the world’s richest soccer league remained open to also adopting a winter break but that there was “no timescale” to making it happen.
“The argument for a winter break isn’t going away,” added Thomas, who pointed out that recent scientific studies showed that footballers played better with a significant rest period between matches.
In 2012, research by Dutch football coach Raymond Verheijen on recovery days described only two days’ rest between games as “insufficient” and “unfair play.”
His studies also found that all teams won less games after just two days’ recovery and that 70% less goals were scored in the last half hour of the matches but 75% more goals conceded.