The Football League has proposed a big shake-up of its division structure.
On Thursday night, they announced plans to increase the league from 72 to 80 clubs, with teams playing in four divisions of 20.
With the Premier League made up of 20 clubs, it would make a five division structure of 100 clubs.
The six additional teams to join the bottom division would likely come from the National League.
Under the proposals, there would be fewer midweek games – just one round of midweek fixtures in the Championship, League Two and League Three, with none in League One.
It would mean four fewer home games in a season for clubs, with the loss of revenue a big concern at this early stage.
The proposals have come out of discussions between the Football League’s board, the FA and the Premier League.
Yet Football League clubs, who the plans directly affect, were only notified of them late on Thursday afternoon.
A source at Preston North End told the Evening Post that the club were ‘astonished’ by the proposals and were not in favour of them.
Four fewer home games would mean a loss of vital revenue at the turnstiles.
A real point of annoyance for them was that the Premier League were involved in the plans when it is the Football League who it will directly affect.
The matter will be discussed at the Football League’s AGM in June but will not be voted on until the summer of 2017.
A statement released by the Football League read: “Clubs are being asked to consider the re-organisation of the domestic league system into five divisions of 20 teams from the 2019/20 season.
Under the proposal, the Football League would become a four division competition below the Premier League, including a new League Three, with 100 clubs competing across the professional game.
“In addition, the League Cup and League Trophy will be retained with the latter potentially having a revised format include a group structure of three games before becoming a knockout competition thereafter.
“At this point, the Board of the Football League is offering no recommendation other than asking clubs to give the matter their full consideration, taking into account the following:
- Football League Clubs should be in a financially no worse, or preferably better, position as a result of any changes;
- Promotion to/relegation from the Premier League must be retained at three places;
- There would be no relegation out of The Football League in season 2018/19;
- Football League Clubs must support the final proposal.
“The proposal stems from English football’s collective concerns about the fixture calendar and enjoys the ‘in principle’ support of executives from the Premier League and FA. The Premier League is due to take a report to their Clubs at their summer meeting, while the FA Executive needs to consult with its Board.
“The congested fixture list remains one of the game’s biggest concerns with insufficient dates available in each season to sensibly accommodate both League and Cup fixtures without significant clashes.
“The League’s proposal seeks to achieve a new, innovative approach to the fixture calendar and will need ‘whole game’ support as this concern is not unique to The Football League and is shared for differing reasons by both the Premier League and FA.
“If implemented , the proposal would The number of midweek matches reduce from next season’s nine in the Championship, seven in League One and six in League Two to just one in the Championship, League Two and the new League Three and none in League One in 2019/20.
“In considering these matters, the football authorities have identified the following objectives:
Football League Objectives:
- To maximise the number of weekend/Bank Holiday league fixtures;
- To remove where practical fixture congestion and scheduling conflicts;
- To protect/improve financial distributions/income generation for Football League clubs;
- To maintain the Football League Play-Off Finals as the last event of the domestic season.
Premier League and FA Priorities:
Increasing the prospect of success for Clubs in European competitions;
Increasing the prospect of success for England Teams at all levels;
Retaining the value and status of the FA Cup Competition;
Avoiding a ‘problematic’ fixture clash with UEFA Competitions;
To achieve a fixture schedule where the FA Cup Final is played the week after the last round of Premier League fixtures.
The Football League believes there are any number of potential benefits for Football League clubs in reducing the number of fixtures, the importance of which will depend on a club’s individual circumstances. In all circumstances clubs should not be disadvantaged by the proposed changes. Benefits include but are not limited to:
- The importance of each individual fixture will increase;
- Reduced travel costs to four games which are often at a distance;
- Midweek travel for fans vastly reduced.
- Potential to reduce squad size;
- Increased importance of reserve team football;
- Enhanced recovery time/match preparation.
- Increase in sale of season tickets due to reduction in midweek games;
- Increased profile on League One, Two & Three at different stages of the season;
- Statistically greater chance of promotion (and relegation);
- At least six new Clubs (30%) to play each season.
- No relegation out of the Football League in 2018/19;
- Different formats for the Football League Trophy available;
- Opportunity to standardise promotion/relegation.
Any final decisions on this proposal would not need to be made by Football League clubs until their AGM in June 2017 enabling full consultation with clubs and stakeholders, including fans.”