Football League proposal met with backlash

20 May

Bradford‘s joint chairman Mark Lawn has branded the Football League’s proposals to introduce a fifth division to the English professional ranks as “ridiculous.”


The league wants to create four divisions of 20 teams below the Premier League in time for the 2019-20 season, increasing the number of professional clubs in England from 92 to 100, but Lawn is vehemently opposed to the plan.

“We’ve had this structure for years because it has suited the majority of clubs, so why change it?” Lawn told Press Association Sport. “Why? What they don’t understand is that currently we have 23 home games. We need the crowds. We don’t get the money Championship clubs get.

“Losing four home games means we lose four incomes. It’s not so bad for us but for teams like Accrington and York that’s a lot of money. It’s ridiculous.”

Lawn said he had not heard about the league’s plans for a radical shake-up until advised by Press Association Sport.

“They certainly haven’t come out and consulted with all the clubs because this is the first I’ve heard about it,” he added. “If we were voting now I’d be voting against it. The only reason I can think of is that, yet again, the Championship clubs want it.”

Peterborough‘s director of football Barry Fry said his club had not been notified of the governing body’s intentions either.

“I’m very surprised with all my contacts in the game that I didn’t know about this already,” he said. “Until I see the proposals and how it affects the clubs I can’t really comment.”

Accrington, as Lawn expected, are set to raise strong objections to the plan being implemented.

Club owner Andrew Holt said he saw no merit in the Football League’s strategy, and predicted it would be costly to Stanley.

He said: “I don’t recognise it as a sensible plan. We want more games. We’d rather play 50 home games. We need revenue. We don’t want to lose any games. I don’t recognise it as having any sense.

“Our players will play as many games as we want. We pay them an annual salary; we want them to play games. We need the revenue. We certainly wouldn’t want less games.”

Holt told Sky Sports News: “It’s got to hurt us if we lose any revenue. I’m putting cash in to fill a black hole. If we have less matches and less revenue, I’ll have to put more in, and I’m not going to do that.

“If were going to play 20 times a year it’s hardly worth having a stadium. I can’t see any sense or any logic in the proposals.

“It’s just not going to get our support. I need them coming up with better ideas where we can get more games on and generate more revenue for our clubs. These bottom clubs don’t have a lot of revenue and we need to build it, not reduce it.”

Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart does not think the proposals will affect his club.

“It’s a long time in football until 2018, the proposals don’t worry me,” he said. “I’ve built a stadium and invested a lot of money in order to enjoy the fruits of higher-tier football.

“If I had not had that ambition I wouldn’t have spent over £30 million. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t bother me.

“What I will say is there is a big gulf between the Championship and the Premier League, a great divide, and the money that is shared out is disproportionate.

“The problem now is foreign investors coming in and taking a gamble. They’re mortgaging a lot of money to try and get in the Premier League and it’s turning into a bit of a casino.

“There is also a divide between the Championship and League One and Two and the gaps need filling in.”

Brentford chief executive Mark Devlin welcomed the discussion, saying: “The Football League is to be absolutely applauded for coming up with an innovative and far-reaching approach and set of proposals.

“These proposals are a really good start for how we can tackle some of the problems Football League clubs are facing.”

He picked out fixture congestion, dips in attendances for midweek matches and player fatigue as issues facing teams.

“I’m not saying all the proposals are workable and they’re bound to divide opinion but I look at them very positively,” Devlin told Sky Sports News HQ.

Devlin said any change to the current system must not “adversely affect revenue streams”, and expressed a preference for National League clubs joining the Football League rather than B teams from Premier League sides.

“Undoubtedly the Premier League may well be able to offer financial incentives to make that much more of an appealing proposition, but on a personal basis I would prefer to see National League teams,” Devlin said. “I think it would be much better if there are more teams serving their communities rather than B teams from Premier League sides.”

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