Dave Seddon’s press view

Local rivals should face each other more during midweek

Local rivals should face each other more during midweek

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Putting it mildly, football fans have reacted to proposals for a fifth division – made up of 100 clubs – with deep suspicion and hostility.

The Football League’s plans for the future were made public on Thursday teatime and were something of a bombshell.

Almost from nowhere, came a white paper that would see the Football League expanded from 72 to 80 clubs.

It would mean four divisions of 20 clubs underneath the 20-strong Premier League.

What I found a bit strange about the whole thing was the root of the proposals.

They have seemingly not come about as a result of a push for change from Football League clubs.

Rather, the plans were born out of talks between the league’s board, the FA and the Premier League.

Only on Thursday afternoon were the clubs – those who will be directly affected – informed.

So whose interests are actually being represented here? My reading of it is that the focus is on helping the Premier League elite, using the Football League to do so.

The talk is of creating room for a winter break and being able to fit FA Cup games comfortably into the calender, avoiding ‘problematic’ clashes with European ties.

More a Manchester City or Arsenal problem I would suggest, not a burden which Rochdale or Yeovil should have to shoulder.

The proposals mean smaller divisions and less matches.

Four less home games per club equals a loss of revenue which is somehow being spun as being healthier in the long term.

It is being argued by those behind the reforms that clubs will benefit from a drop in midweek matches.

Next season, Championship clubs will play nine rounds of midweek games, League One clubs seven and those in League Two, six.

If these new proposals came in, there would be just one set of midweek games in three of the four divisions and none in what would be League Two.

Those behind the plans point to Tuesday and Wednesday night games attracting smaller crowds, hence a desire to drastically reduce their number.

If there is a worry about midweek attendances, reform could be done in a more simple way when the fixture list is being drawn up.

More sensible scheduling would do the trick, keep the travelling to a minimum during the week.

Preston played away at Charlton and Bristol City on Tuesday evenings in the season just finished.

Both of those teams visited Deepdale in midweek, so did Fulham.

The season before, North End and Gillingham hosted one another on Tuesday nights.

In other divisions, there was some horrendous fixture scheduling – I recall some of the distances being covered by clubs in Leagues One and Two at Easter, were staggering.

Leave the long journeys for a Saturday when supporters have more time for them.

The season just gone, North End were followed by 1,900 of their fans at Fulham, 1,200 against QPR and 949 at Brighton, all Saturday games.

All long distances but accessible by road and rail when you have got much of the day to go at it.

Next season, would it do any harm to go to Wigan on a Tuesday night?

With my journalist hat on, I should be welcoming less midweek games.

Deadlines are tighter for a Tuesday or Wednesday night and there is nothing fun about the search for an unlocked door to get out of St Andrew’s in the pitch black when everyone bar the groundsman’s cat had long gone.

But I like midweek games under the lights, they are part of the football culture.

I loved reporting the last minute equaliser from Greg Cunningham at Birmingham, his diving header in the cold at Bristol City, just as I enjoyed the thrill of three great PNE goals against Charlton under The Valley’s floodlights.

At the moment, the Football League’s proposals are just that, nothing more.

The vote on them will be taken in a year’s time, that a period hopefully for clubs to see sense and see through what changes are on the table.

A genuine fear is that this will be a back door route for the Premier League to get their ‘B’ teams into the Football League.

That might not happen immediately but who is to say it will not further down the line?

For the proposals to be adopted, it would take 90% of Football League clubs to agree. Surely there won’t be that level of agreement?