New plan for English football – 100 clubs in five divisions
Football League puts forward new proposal to reduce the number of teams in each division and create a new tier
English football could be on the brink of a revolution that could have significant repercussions for supporters and teams beyind the Premier League elite.
In proposals that have described by BBC Sport as the "biggest shake-up since the creation of the Premier League in 1992", the Football League wants to create a new division and reduce the number of teams in each tier to 20 from 2019-20.
If the plans get the green light the result will mean five English divisions with a total of 100 teams, an increase of eight on the existing number. Currently, there are 24 teams in the Championship, League One and League Two, and twenty in the Premier League
The Premier League and the Football Association have given the proposal a supportive if cautious response, saying that they agree "in principle".
A decision will be announced at Football League's annual general meeting in June 2017 but the BBC reports that of the current 72 Football League clubs, "90 per cent must support the proposal for it to go ahead"
Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey told BBC Sport why he believes in the expansion. "There are clear benefits for everyone," he said. "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."
Harvey outlined the "clear benefits" of introducing a fifth league:
- Ensure most games are played on weekends and Bank Holidays;
- 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.
The Premier League and the FA have offered their tentative support, said Harvey, because "they can see potential benefits on an international basis... it is about finding solutions that supports English football for the future."
As for where the extra clubs would come from, Harvey told the BBC that the bottom two teams in League Two, which are relegated from the Football League to the National League each May, would not go down at the end of the 2018-19 season. Six other clubs - plus the two clubs promoted from the National League in May 2019 - would join the Football League. "The logical place for the extra clubs to come from would be promoting the next six teams from the National League," said Harvey. "Some of those teams are already professional and the extension to the league may suit them."
It's by no means certain, however, that the proposal will receive the 90 per cent backing of the Football League clubs. With each league comprising 20 teams, a drop of four from today's total would result in the clubs playing 38 instead of 46 league matches a season, a potentially damaging drop in revenue for clubs who can only dream of the riches in the Premier League.
But Harvey has asked the clubs to back the expansion in the interests of the "broader view of English football", adding: "We won't be looking for clubs to take a financial haircut to support this. We believe focusing on weekend games will, over period of time, drive bigger attendances and increase quality of performance on the pitch."