English Football League faces revamp under radical proposals
Last Updated: 20/05/16 9:02am
English football could be heading for its biggest shake-up since the introduction of the Premier League under radical proposals which include a fifth professional division.
The Football League wrote to all its clubs on Thursday to explain the ideas, with the aim of bringing the changes into effect within three years.
Each league will consist of 20 teams. The Premier League will remain the top division, with the Football League administering the next four, creating the opportunity for 100 professional teams.
Football League proposals explained
The plans for a new 'League Three' and 20-team league structure in detail...
The new innovative approach to the fixture calendar, which will need 'Whole Game' support, will come into play from the start of the 2019/2020 season, if agreed following a period of consultation with the Football League's member clubs.
The congested fixture list is seen as one of the game's biggest concerns, with insufficient dates available in each season to accommodate league and cup matches without significant clashes, a concern shared with the Premier League and Football Association.
Among the key objectives of the League's 'Whole Game' solution is to maximise the number of weekend and Bank Holiday fixtures and to remove, where practical, fixture congestion and scheduling conflicts.
It also proposes to look at protecting and improving financial distributions and income generation for Football League clubs and to maintain play-off finals as the last event of the domestic season.
Priorities for the Premier League and FA include increasing the prospect of success for clubs in European competitions and for England teams at all levels.
Retaining the value of the FA Cup competition and achieving a fixture schedule where the final is played the week after the final round of Premier League fixtures is another, along with avoiding a 'problematic' fixture clash with UEFA competitions.
No changes are planned for the League Cup but the Football League Trophy (currently Johnstone's Paint Trophy) will be under a new format which will potentially include a group structure of three games before a knockout phase, with the group matches played over the middle weekend of international breaks.
In March of this year, the Football League Board committed to consider these proposals and throughout the initial stages, the body has stressed a number of principles must be established to protect the position of its clubs.
These include ensuring clubs are in a financially no worse - or preferably better - position as a result of any changes, promotion to and relegation from the Premier League must be retained at three places, no relegation out of the Football League in season 2018/19 and that Football League clubs must support the final proposal.
The League recognises in order for its members clubs to give the proposal full consideration, there must be an understanding of what the final proposal will look like in respect of the following…
1. How promotion and relegation would operate in 2018/19 to form the new divisions
2. Where the extra teams come from
3.The impact any changes would have on the National League, and the opportunity to standardise promotion/relegation to three places
The reduction in the number of fixtures played by Football League clubs would be the catalyst for further change and if clubs are supportive of continuing these discussions, the following areas will move up the Football League's agenda with the Premier League and Football Association.
1. A winter break
2. Removal of FA Cup replays
3. Consideration to be given to moving some rounds of the FA Cup to midweek
4. The future of the Community Shield
The proposal enjoys the 'in principle' support of executives from the Premier League and FA. The Premier League will report to its clubs in the summer, while the FA will consult its board.
The final decision in respect of this proposal must be confirmed by November 2017 - and the Football League will be seeking a decision from its clubs at the AGM in June 2017.