Back in May, the Football League announced plans to reorganise the English league system into five divisions of twenty teams.
According to the organisation’s chief executive, Shaun Harvey, this so-called ‘Whole Game Solution’ promises to “maximise the number of weekend/Bank Holiday league fixtures”, “remove…fixture congestion and scheduling conflicts”, and “improve financial distributions/income generation for…clubs.”
All very well and good on paper, but nobody’s buying it.
As the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) have pointed out, such a radical restructuring would significantly alter the traditional football calendar, which could result in a potentially catastrophic loss of revenue for smaller clubs.
Even more of a worry for fans, it would require fourteen new teams to be admitted to the Football League, and given the debacle surrounding this season’s delightfully named Checkatrade Trophy, the smart money is on some of those teams being Premier League development squads, or ‘B-Teams’.
Fortunately, the latter suspicion is shared by almost everybody involved with the game, and at the newly rebranded EFL’s AGM in late-September, all seventy-two stakeholder clubs registered their opposition to the idea.
This development is to be welcomed.
However, the broad outlines of the ‘Whole Game Solution’ remain intact, and despite widespread scepticism amongst supporters and supporters’ groups, the EFL appears dead-set on moving forward to the next level.
There has, of course, been talk of a “consultation process.” But one can only wonder why this wasn’t deemed a necessity in the first place.
The truth is, the ‘Whole Game Solution’ is an answer to a question that nobody is asking. If the EFL and the rest of football’s governing bodies really want to tackle the problems afflicting the game, they would do well to start by enforcing their own rules and acting upon their own rhetoric.
If applied correctly, Financial Fair Play and the Owners’ and Directors’ Test would go a long way to addressing increasing financial disparity and governance and ethics issues.
And if the EFL made an effort to consult fans as a matter of course - not just to rubber stamp their more ‘out-there’ ideas - they’d find out that Mr and Mrs Bloggs are concerned about rising ticket prices and the ability of Sky Sports to move fixtures at the drop of a hat, rather than the number of fixtures in a season.
Until then, Shaun Harvey and his ilk will continue to misdiagnose the malady at hand, concocting increasingly grandiose but ultimately inappropriate remedies in the process.
That’s why it’s so important for supporters’ trusts such as HTSA to effectively channel the views of our members and the wider fan base.
To this end, several HTSA board members, along with members of the Leeds United Supporters Trust and the Bradford City Supporters Trust, had the great pleasure of attending a Supporters Direct (SD) development training day last week.
Topics covered ranged from the social value of football to the ins-and-outs of strategic planning, and everybody came away having learned something valuable. As such, we would like to extend our gratitude to Nicola Hudson from SD for being such a kind and engaging host and teacher.