Your idea’s got no­hope­greg so why not go re­gional

HERE’S HOW TO SPLIT THE CLUBS

The Football League Paper - - PROFILE ON -

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-

North­ern

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

Pul­verise

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.

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