Sports

May 202016
 
Burnley claimed the Football League Championship trophy this season after winning the second tier

English football could be heading for its biggest shake-up since the creation of the Premier League in 1992.

The Football League wants to create an extra division with 20 teams in each from 2019-20.

It would mean England has 100 teams in five divisions, up from 92. There are currently 24 teams in the Championship, League One and League Two.

The Football League says the move would tackle fixture congestion and boost the finances of its members.

The Premier League and the Football Association have backed the proposal “in principle”.

Of the current 72 Football League clubs, 90% must support the proposal for it to go ahead. A decision will be made at their annual general meeting in June 2017.

“There are clear benefits for everyone,” 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, the proposal has attracted mixed reaction from Football League clubs.

Accrington owner Andrew Holt said it had “no merit”, while Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn believes it “has value”.

Other club bosses complained they had not been told about the plan before it was announced on Thursday.

‘Football League shake-up would see clubs struggle financially’

Why change the current system?

The Football League believes the move would help:

  • Ensure more 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.

Harvey said the Premier League and the FA have backed the idea in principle because “they can see potential benefits on an international basis”.

“The whole game needs to come together,” he added. “It is about finding solutions that supports English football for the future.”

The FA said the fixture schedule needs looking at “for the benefit of all”.

“These are interesting draft proposals and we look forward to further discussions over the coming months,” it added.

Bradford joint-chairman Mark Lawn believes the current system should not be changed.

“We’ve had this structure for years because it has suited the majority of clubs, so why change it?” said Lawn, whose team are taking part in the League One play-offs.

“What they don’t understand is that currently we have 23 home games. We need the crowds. Losing four home games means we lose four incomes.”

Brentford chief executive Mark Devlin thinks the Football League should be praised for an “innovative and far-reaching approach”.

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

How would the restructure be implemented?

For the proposal to be approved, it needs the backing of 65 Football League clubs (90%) at next year’s AGM.

The Football League says its board is offering “no recommendation other than asking its members to give full consideration to the proposal”.

The decision will have to be confirmed by November 2017.

Relegation from the Football League would be scrapped in the 2018-19 season before the restructure for the following season.

Dagenham and Redbridge would have escaped relegation from League Two if the proposed changes had been implemented this season

How the promotion/relegation system would work during 2018-19 is still to be determined.

Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart said he was concerned the proposal could widen existing financial gulfs between the divisions.

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

Where would the extra teams come from?

Currently, the bottom two teams in League Two are relegated from the Football League to the National League.

They would not go down at the end of the 2018-19 season, said Harvey.

Six other clubs – in addition to the two clubs already promoted from the National League – 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.”

Could Celtic and Rangers renew their interest in playing south of the border?

Scottish Premiership sides Celtic and Rangers have long been linked with moving into the English pyramid.

In 2009, Premier League clubs voted to reject a proposal to bring the Old Firm rivals into the English top flight.

Harvey has not ruled out the involvement of the Glasgow clubs, but added such a move would be difficult.

But he dismissed suggestions Premier League clubs could field B teams in the lower divisions.

Former Leyton Orient chairman Hearn told Sky Sports: “[Premier League B teams] would destroy the fabric of the Football League. It is poorly thought and would be a sell-out to the Premier League.”

Will Football League clubs lose revenue?

The major impact would be felt by Football League clubs, who would see their number of matches reduced from 46 to 38 per season.

Despite the potential of losing revenue from three fewer home matches, Harvey has asked the 72 clubs to take a “broader view of English football”.

“We have to make sure none of our clubs are in a financially worse position,” he added.

“Our clubs shouldn’t be the only one to shoulder the burden. 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.”

Accrington resigned from the Football League in 1962 after running into financial difficulties

Accrington owner Andrew Holt believes the new structure, if approved, would have costly financial implications for many lower league clubs.

Holt said the Lancashire club would not be voting in favour of the proposal.

He said: “We don’t want to lose any games. We’d rather play 50 home games. because we need revenue.

“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.”

What about the fans?

Long midweek trips across the country for fans are “in the main” going to disappear, said Harvey.

“There a hardcore of fans who are more than happy to go length and breadth of the country,” he added.

“But I think less games will make the Saturday at a stadium more special and more important.

“It is going to be interesting to see how fans accept this. I’m hopeful it will be positive.”

The Football Supporters’ Federation, a democratic organisation representing the rights of fans in England and Wales, said it would consult supporters at all levels.

“The fans’ voice has to be heard in this debate,” it added.

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May 192016
 
Dr Tony Xia is the owner of Recon Group, which employs 35,000 people in 75 countries

New Aston Villa owner Dr Tony Xia has said the club’s next manager will be given up to £50m to spend to get the club back into the Premier League.

The Chinese businessman also confirmed former Chelsea and West Brom boss Roberto di Matteo is in contention for the managerial vacancy.

Xia bought the club from Randy Lerner this week for £60m, subject to Football League approval.

“We will have a budget from £20m to £30m to £40m to £50m,” he said.

“It depends when we have the coach around the table.”

Villa finished bottom of the Premier League with 17 points and will play in the second tier of English football next season for the first time since 1987-88.

Xia, who will become chairman at Villa Park once the move is ratified, said the whole package to buy the club had cost him “over £100m”.

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Xia ambition for Villa impresses Hollis

He said a new manager to replace Remi Garde, who left in March, will be named within two weeks.

Di Matteo is among the candidates, having had experience of winning promotion from the Championship with West Brom and overseeing Chelsea’s Champions League final victory in 2012.

“Roberto was one of the choices. He has been very good in the Championship and he did very well in the Premier League,” Xia told the BBC.

“We have other good choices. I think we will get the right one in two weeks.

“I think there is a lot of potential for Villa to be promoted very soon. They have a very good academy and facilities and a very good fanbase, which can attract a lot of people.

“If we can get the right team to work with we can get on the right track and I hope we can achieve it one year.”

‘Exciting times for Aston Villa’

Aston Villa chairman Steve Hollis, who also suggested British managers with Championship experience feature on the shortlist, is confident Xia’s success as a businessman bodes well for the future of the club.

Xia is the owner of Recon Group, a holding company that has the controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges, employing 35,000 people in 75 countries.

“If you look at Tony Xia’s business career in China he has been instrumental in the building and regeneration of over 60 new cities,” Hollis told BBC Radio 5 live.

“Through that he shared with us his ambition in global football, his ambition for Aston Villa and for the Aston area as a part of the city of Birmingham, and it is inspirational.

“If he can deliver what he shared with us, it is going to be a great journey over the next few years.”

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May 192016
 
Rafael Benitez’s name was chanted by Newcastle fans throughout the win over Tottenham

Rafael Benitez’s decision whether to stay on as Newcastle manager will depend on the amount of funds he is given to strengthen the squad.

Benitez took over in March but could not stop the club being relegated, despite the Magpies winning three of their last six league matches.

He could now activate a clause in his deal which allows him to leave.

However, he has held talks with the Magpies hierarchy, with talks described as positive.

Benitez replaced Steve McClaren with the club in 19th and the Spaniard was in charge for 10 top flight games in all.

“My heart is telling me yes, it is a great opportunity, city and club,” the former Real Madrid boss told BBC Sport after his side’s 5-1 win over Tottenham in their last game of the campaign.

“But my brain is saying to analyse what is going on.”

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