Your idea’s got nohopegreg so why not go regional
HERE’S HOW TO SPLIT THE CLUBS
WHEN it comes to allowing Premier League sides to field B teams in the Football League, there are just two things you need to know. 1. It is a very good idea. 2. It isn’t going to happen. First, the good. Spain, Italy and Germany have all let ‘big’ sides field reserve sides in the lower leagues for decades. All three have more homegrown players in their top flight than us. This is the driving force behind Greg Dyke’s proposals.
In principle it’s great, like communism or the Corby trouser press. But making it work from scratch? That’s going to be a battle, and here’s why:
In Spain, there are only two national divisions, La Primera and La Segunda, before the whole thing splits into four regional pots of 20 teams.
Italy also have just two national divisions, although their third and fourth tiers are then divided in two. Germany, meanwhile, have three national divisions before splitting into four.
Why is this relevant? For starters, these regional divisions are, by their very nature, remodelled more often than a four-year-old’s play dough.
Here, we value the traditional, timehonoured structure of our system.We have changed it just once in 100 years. On the continent, they couldn’t care less. Spain, for instance, have messed around with their third tier seven times since 1929.
The effect of this is two-fold; one, teams and supporters don’t really care if new sides are shoehorned into the system; two, the constant rejigs create natural openings for them to do so.
In addition, the vast majority of sides at this regional level are rough-
ly equivalent to part-time sides in the Conference, made up of semi-pro players and volunteer staff. Gates and stadiums are tiny. They run out of cash, they drop out, they return five years later. The existence of B teams has no financial impact at all.
England, by contrast, are the only country in the world with five professional divisions stacked on top of each other.What we call a pyramid is actually more like Nelson’s Column.
And every one of those 100-plus teams is a business. They rely on the loan system to supplement squads. With B teams, that supply would run dry.
They also rely on gate receipts. Would, say, Cardiff’s kids command any kind of away following? Unlikely. That in turn would pulverise home crowds, not to mention sponsorship. Jobs could be lost. Clubs could go to the wall.
One plan is to create a whole new division below League Two. That, too, 1 Accrington 2 Barnsley 3 Bradford 4 Bury 5 Carlisle 6 Doncaster 7 Fleetwood 8 Hartlepool 9 Morecambe 10 Oldham 11 Rochdale 12 Rotherham 13 Scunthorpe 14 Sheffield United 15 Tranmere 16 York
1 Bristol City 2 Burton 3 Cheltenham 4 Chesterfield 5 Coventry 6 Crewe 7 Mansfield 8 Newport 9 Northampton 10 Notts County 11 Oxford 12 Port Vale 13 Shrewsbury 14 Swindon 15 Walsall 16 Yeovil is a non-starter. Already, the Conference is scandalously restricted to two-up, two-down. Not only would an extra barrier be unfair, it would be resisted bitterly.
So are the plans a write-off? Not quite. I believe they could work – but only by returning to regional lower leagues for the first time since 1958.
A merged League One and Two, divided into three geographical regions of 16 teams, each with promotion to the Championship and relegation to the Conference. Each, too, with enough places for up to eight B teams. Here’s how it would look:
Even without B teams, the financial arguments for regionalisation are convincing. Travel costs – for teams and fans – would plummet.
So, too, would wages, with players no longer requiring compensating for moving halfway across the country. There’d be more derbies, more away fans.
West & Midlands Southern
1 AFC Wimbledon 2 Cambridge 3 Colchester 4 Crawley 5 Dagenham & Red 6 Exeter 7 Gillingham 8 Leyton Orient 9 Luton 10 MK Dons 11 Peterborough 12 Plymouth 13 Portsmouth 14 Southend 15 Stevenage 16 Wycombe
Of course, the complexities of promotion, relegation and play-offs would require thought. But in theory, at least, the pros appear to outweigh the cons.
I think it’s a good idea. Unfortunately for Greg Dyke and his FA commission, he may find the Football League a little more hardnosed.
BIG CHANCE: David Nugent celebrates a goal for Leicester