English football is planning its biggest set of changes since the establishment of the Premier League in 1992: but no one seems to fully understand why.
The Football League plans to reduce each division to contain 20 teams, whilst adding a fifth division - to create a 100 team system, up from its famous 92. They want to implement the move from 2019-20, but will need 90 per cent support from its current members at their AGM in June 2017.
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, it is far from clear what on earth the point of this change is.
The claim is that the move will:
- Mean more games played on weekends and Bank Holidays - it will effectively eliminate midweek football, with the argument that it's too difficult for away fans to travel to games
- 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
However, club chairmen have already pointed out that point one and point three are incompatible: fewer games means less income. Others have argued back that fewer fixtures means that clubs will need a smaller squad, but will eight games fewer a season really make much difference to the amount of players needed? After all, Premier League sides - already on 38 games a season - often operate with giant squads. Meanwhile, fixture congestion and clashes have not been a real issue in the past few years - although, granted, there has been little bad weather in the winter months in recent years - and, again, no one seems to have complained about the play-offs stretching into the summer.
Many believe that the real reason for this tinkering is to create space for the much-derided plan to allow Premier League teams to field B teams in the lower leagues - something which would apparently help develop English players. Or, it could even be a way to bring Rangers and Celtic into the English pyramid, a suggestion that's been on the cards for decades.
Fans and experts have already started to have their say.
Problem - England. Cause - Premiership and £££. Solution - Restructure the lower leagues. Common Sense in that approach - None - Fail— Non League Crowds (@NonLeagueCrowd) May 20, 2016
Let's judge FL leadership on their record. Bought off by PL when convenient to the PL. Unconvincing on ownership issues. Hardly reassuring.— Michael Calvin (@CalvinBook) May 19, 2016
Can't help feeling that a key factor behind Football League plans is desire not be seen as stick in the muds - first rebrand, now this.— Owen Gibson (@owen_g) May 20, 2016
However, one valid point in support is this:
I'm all for a five-division, 100-team system, purely because it'll make counting the league places that separate two FA Cup teams easier.— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) May 20, 2016