Football League wants new five-league, 100-club system – BBC News
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English football could be heading for its biggest shake-up since the creation of the Premier League in 1992.
The Football League wants to create an extra division with 20 teams in each from 2019-20.
It would mean England had 100 teams in five divisions, up from 92. Currently, there are 24 teams in the Championship, League One and League Two.
The Football League says the move would tackle fixture congestion and boost the finances of its members.
The Premier League and the Football Association have backed the proposal “in principle”.
Of the current 72 Football League clubs, 90% must support the proposal for it to go ahead. A decision will be made at their annual general meeting in June 2017.
“There are clear benefits for everyone,” Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey told BBC Sport.
“It is about taking a step back to try to work out what is best for English football.
“We hope that the Football League taking this first step is the catalyst for future change.”
However, the proposal have attracted mixed reaction from Football League clubs.
Accrington owner Andrew Holt said it had “no merit”, while Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn believes it “has value”.
Other club bosses complained they had not been told about the plan before it was announced on Thursday.
Why change the current system?
The Football League believes the move would help:
- Ensure more games are played on weekends and Bank Holidays;
- Remove fixture congestion and clashes;
- Help Football League clubs make more money;
- Keep the play-off finals on the last weekend of the domestic season.
Harvey said the Premier League and the FA have backed the idea in principle because “they can see potential benefits on an international basis”.
“The whole game needs to come together,” he added. “It is about finding solutions that supports English football for the future.”
The FA said the fixture schedule needs looking at “for the benefit of all”.
“These are interesting draft proposals and we look forward to further discussions over the coming months,” it added.
Bradford joint-chairman Mark Lawn believes the current system should not be changed.
“We’ve had this structure for years because it has suited the majority of clubs, so why change it?” said Lawn, whose team are taking part in the League One play-offs.
“What they don’t understand is that currently we have 23 home games. We need the crowds. Losing four home games means we lose four incomes.”
How would the restructure be implemented?
For the proposal to be approved, it needs the backing of 65 Football League clubs (90%) at next year’s AGM.
The Football League says its board is offering “no recommendation other than asking its members to give full consideration to the proposal”.
The decision will have to be confirmed by November 2017.
Relegation from the Football League would be scrapped in the 2018-19 season before the restructure for the following season.
How the promotion/relegation system would work during 2018-19 is still to be determined.
Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart said he was concerned the proposal could widen existing financial gulfs between the divisions.
“There is also a divide between the Championship and League One and Two and the gaps need filling in,” he added.
Where would the extra teams come from?
Currently, the bottom two teams in League Two are relegated from the Football League to the National League.
They would not go down at the end of the 2018-19 season, said Harvey.
Six other clubs – in addition to the two clubs already promoted from the National League – would join the Football League.
“The logical place for the extra clubs to come from would be promoting the next six teams from the National League,” said Harvey.
“Some of those teams are already professional and the extension to the league may suit them.”
Scottish Premiership sides Celtic and Rangers have long been linked with moving into the English pyramid.
In 2009, Premier League clubs voted to reject a proposal to bring the Old Firm rivals into the English top flight.
Harvey has not ruled out the involvement of the Glasgow clubs, but added such a move would be difficult.
But he dismissed suggestions Premier League clubs could field B teams in the lower divisions.
Orient chairman Hearntold Sky Sports: “[Premier League B teams] would destroy the fabric of the Football League. It is poorly thought and would be a sell-out to the Premier League.”
Will Football League clubs lose revenue?
The major impact would be felt by Football League clubs, who would see their number of matches reduced from 46 to 38 per season.
Despite the potential of losing revenue from three fewer home matches, Harvey has asked the 72 clubs to take a “broader view of English football”.
“We have to make sure none of our clubs are in a financially worse position,” he added.
“Our clubs shouldn’t be the only one to shoulder the burden. We won’t be looking for clubs to take a financial haircut to support this.
“We believe focusing on weekend games will, over period of time, drive bigger attendances and increase quality of performance on the pitch.”
Accrington owner Andrew Holt believes the new structure, if approved, would have costly financial implications for many lower league clubs.
Holt said the Lancashire club would not be voting in favour of the proposal.
He said: “We don’t want to lose any games. We’d rather play 50 home games. because we need revenue.
“If were going to play 20 times a year it’s hardly worth having a stadium. I can’t see any sense or any logic in the proposals.
“It’s just not going to get our support. I need them coming up with better ideas where we can get more games on and generate more revenue for our clubs.
“These bottom clubs don’t have a lot of revenue and we need to build it, not reduce it.”
What about the fans?
Long midweek trips across the country for fans are “in the main” going to disappear, said Harvey.
“There a hardcore of fans who are more than happy to go length and breadth of the country,” he added.
“But I think less games will make the Saturday at a stadium more special and more important.
“It is going to be interesting to see how fans accept this. I’m hopeful it will be positive.”
The Football Supporters’ Federation, a democratic organisation representing the rights of fans in England and Wales, said it would consult supporters at all levels.
“The fans’ voice has to be heard in this debate,” it added.
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