B-TEAM RE­LIEF!

EFL clubs back de­ci­sion to veto sec­ond teams

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By John Lyons

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.

Con­cerns

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.

Con­fu­sion

“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.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

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

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