Fifth division given short shrift by Football League clubs

Date published: Friday 20th May 2016 8:39

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Football League clubs have railed against chief executive Shaun Harvey’s proposals to introduce a fifth division.

Harvey wants to create four divisions of 20 teams below the Premier League in time for the 2019-20 season, increasing the number of professional clubs in England from 92 to 100.

Harvey believes this will alleviate fixture congestion by cutting down on midweek matches.

But many clubs fear they will be financially hit by losing four home games a season.

Bradford joint-chairman Mark Lawn said: “We’ve had this structure for years because it has suited the majority of clubs, so why change it?

“Why? What they don’t understand is that currently we have 23 home games. We need the crowds. We don’t get the money Championship clubs get.

“Losing four home games means we lose four incomes. It’s not so bad for us but for teams like Accrington and York that’s a lot of money. It’s ridiculous.”

Accrington owner Andrew Holt said he saw no merit in the Football League’s strategy, and predicted it would be costly to Stanley.

He told Sky Sports News: “I don’t recognise it as a sensible plan. We want more games. We’d rather play 50 home games.

“We need revenue. We don’t want to lose any games. I don’t recognise it as having any sense.

“Our players will play as many games as we want. We pay them an annual salary; we want them to play games. We need the revenue.

“We certainly wouldn’t want less games.”

Clubs will vote on the changes in June 2017 and a 90 per cent approval rate, or 65 of the current 72 clubs, is required to get the go-ahead.

Although League One and Two clubs fear the financial implications, the biggest obstacle facing Harvey is likely to be persuading Championship clubs to vote, like turkeys for Christmas, in favour of the changes – even though the plan would likely see seven of them relegated in 2019.

“Potentially, in the first year, of course,” said Harvey. “But thereafter your percentage chance of promotion is increased with four less teams. There’s always going to be that first year where that particular set of circumstances will prevail.

“We are looking at change for 2019/20 so clubs have plenty of time to see this coming. We have to resolve how relegation and promotion would be dealt with in the lead-up to that period.”

Harvey ruled out the possibility of Premier League clubs fielding so-called ‘B’ teams in the lower divisions, but they could be involved in a revamped Football League Trophy – until recently known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

The Football League had consisted of four national divisions since 1958, when Divisions Three North and South were merged. The Premier League was formed in 1992, leaving the Football League as three divisions.

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