Two-week summer break for Lionesses as Sarina Wiegman admits calendar is ‘challenging’

Millie Brighton after Chelsea Women's victory over Bristol City
Millie Bright is back in the England squad after recovering from injury - Getty Images/Warren Little

Sarina Wiegman says she has granted England’s players as long a rest period as possible amidst “challenging” calendar constraints, after confirming the Lionesses will get just a two-week off-season break this summer.

With European Championship 2025 qualifiers scheduled on May 31, June 4, July 12 and July 16, and with England’s training camps resuming on June 19 in between the two international windows, a two-week breather in early June represents the only prolonged break that Wiegman’s players will get at the end of the 2023-24 season. That comes off the back of consecutive major tournaments in the summers of 2022 and 2023 too, and for some, the 2021 Olympics.

“It’s hard, we’ve known this calendar for a while now, we know it’s very challenging,” said Wiegman. Regarding her dialogue with clubs, she added: “It was challenging, just like last year of course. We had many conversations with clubs, good conversations, and it’s challenging. We all know players need rest but we also know we need to train to compete in July.”

This summer’s schedule, for the entire international women’s football calendar, has been hugely controversial, with a wide range of players from different countries criticising the lack of a full off-season break because of the new addition of the July fixture window. Arsenal and England’s Leah Williamson has been amongst those to passionately label the calendar “unsustainable”, while former Ballon d’Or-winning Norway striker Ada Hegerberg has also lamented the lack of rest for players across the 12-month calendar.

Wiegman, who has repeatedly said the calendar issue must be addressed, has faced a difficult balance when deciding how long a break to give her players after facing France in early June: either give them a longer rest but risk players not being match fit when they take on the Republic of Ireland in July, or give them a shorter break but risk mentally and physically burning players out with another full summer of training camps. England will hope they have found a balance, with a two-week window.

Asked if players will be able to go on holiday during that fortnight, the Dutchwoman said yes but her “preference” is that they do not travel further afield than Europe. “I think it’s very good to have a proper rest,” she said. “We can’t give any longer because we have to compete in July. My preference would be to stay in Europe and not go to the other side of the world. I want them to come in fit and fresh and be ready to start training. I think they’ll make the right decisions.”

Wiegman has named a 24-player squad to cover both international windows, including fit-again Chelsea centre-back Millie Bright for the first time in 2024 as well as four players who will be on standby.

The defending European champions face France in a double header in a few weeks. They will then train together from June 19 – but have weekends off – all the way up to facing the Republic of Ireland in Norwich on Friday July 12 and then finishing their qualifying campaign away to Sweden on Thursday July 16.

That will include an overseas training camp in the Netherlands from July 1-5, which will feature a behind-closed-doors friendly against the Netherlands.

The squad named on Tuesday is for both sets of qualifiers to provide clarity for players – including those who have not been selected – regarding their summer plans.

Young Chelsea striker Aggie Beever-Jones has been included, while Manchester United defender Maya Le Tissier, Liverpool midfielder Missy Bo Kearns, Tottenham Hotspur winger Jess Naz and Southampton goalkeeper Kayla Rendell are all on standby.

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