EFL clubs back decision to veto second teams
EFL clubs have welcomed the news that Premier League B teams have been ruled out of restructuring plans – though they still have concerns about other issues.
Back in May, the Football League announced their blue- print for the future. From 2019-20, they want to expand their membership from 72 to 80 teams, with four divisions of 20 sides.
Clubs feared Premier League B teams could be invited to fill the eight spaces available, but the EFL confirmed on Thursday that would not happen.
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally said: “I think it’s the right decision. It would devalue the competition.”
But clubs are concerned about a loss of income from hosting fewer league games and there are differing views on regionalisation.
EFL clubs have welcomed the news that Premier League B teams have been ruled out of restructuring plans – though they do have concerns about other issues.
Back in May, the Football League announced their blueprint for the future. From 2019-20, they want to expand their membership from 72 to 80 teams, with four divisions of 20 sides.
The proposed changes would see the introduction of a ‘League Three’. But there were fears in some quarters the necessity to introduce eight more clubs could pave the way for Premier League B teams to enter through the back door.
In addition, there were concerns that Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers could be invited into the set-up. However, on Thursday the EFL confirmed that, following a meeting of their clubs, ‘the inclusion of Premier League B Teams, clubs from non-English leagues or those outside the English football pyramid will not form part of any ongoing discussions for the ‘Whole Game Solution’.
It means that if the revamp was to get the go-ahead, the only place new clubs would come from would be the National League.
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally was among those to welcome the news that Premier League B teams were now officially out of the picture.
“I think it’s the right decision,” he said. “It would devalue the competition and wouldn’t solve what we are trying to achieve. I’m pleased.”
Grimsby Town director John Fenty, whose side have just returned to the EFL, said: “We didn’t want to see Premiership intervention in our competition.”
And Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet believes it’s only right that the Pyramid system is adhered to.
“It’s the right decision,” he said. “There have been one or two mistakes made in the past and there shouldn’t be any shortcuts. People have got to earn the right to come through the ranks.”
One of the major concerns of EFL clubs is a financial one. From having 23 home fixtures now, they would have only 19 in future if the switch to 20 teams per division got the go-ahead. One EFL chairman, who asked not to be named, said: “This shake-up seems unneccesary – it’s about the Premier League and we are being asked to dance to their tune. “We need to be financially rewarded if we lose four home games and there are no guarantees with Premier League solidarity payments. There is also talk of regionalising the bottom two divisions – I wouldn’t like that.” Fenty also has reservations. “I don’t think our club finds favour in regionalising the competition and further to that we have major concerns about loss of income and how that could be made up,” he said. “We strongly question the league’s view that having fewer fixtures will enable us to run with a smaller squad. “We are quite happy with the amount of games we have now and don’t feel there is fixture congestion.” Scally, meanwhile, believes the subject of regionalisation is one that should be explored more.
“I don’t think Gillingham going to Fleetwood, Carlisle or Scunthorpe on a Tuesday evening is practical,” he said. “It’s very expensive travelling-wise and fans can’t get there. I have been concerned about the distances involved for a long time now and we need to make football more accessible.
“I’m all for change if it’s for the benefit of the Football League and clubs, and maintains income levels. We have one year to debate things and we have to put a lot more meat on the bone.
“There is a lot of confusion and the disastrous rebrand of the Football League Trophy hasn’t helped. What was given to us as the new structure hasn’t been the new structure, with the top sides pulling out.”
Sweet added: “I still have some issues and concerns with the remaining proposals. If we were talking about changing the structure over a five-year period, you could do it in a smoother way.
“Funding was an issue that was raised an awful lot, but we have to get the principles right and see where changes need to happen rather than think about how much compensation we want.
“It’s not a financial issue, it’s about what’s best for the British game.”
The Luton chief executive said it was positive that the EFL and their chief executive Shaun Harvey were listening to the clubs’ concerns and reacting to them, as with the Premier League B team decision.
OPINIONS: Grimsby Town’s John Fenty, left, and Gillingham’s Paul Scally HOT TOPIC: Low crowds in the revamped Checkatrade Trophy could make EFL clubs wary of further change