football: Call for big reduction in League

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The Independent Online
Peter Leaver, the Premier League's new chief executive, has called for a massive reduction in the number of full-time clubs in the Football League. He thinks that their number should be halved in order to make the Nationwide League a more viable proposition.

"My own personal view is that are probably too many clubs," he said. "I don't believe that a country like ours with a population of our size can support 92 professional football clubs. I think we must be talking somewhere between 40 and 50 full-time clubs.

"That's a big fall-off and it will obviously cause a great deal of anxiety in a lot of smaller clubs and a lot of localities where they take a great deal of pride in their club."

Leaver's comment on BBC Radio 5 Live comes after the Football League's decision to reject a proposal to regionalise the Third Division into northern and southern sections.

Jonathan Hunt, a midfield player who is grateful for two of the smaller clubs in the League for giving a start in a career that led him to Birmingham City, looks likely playing his football in the Premiership next season. He is set to sign for Derby for pounds 500,000 today.

Darren Wassall, a defender, is poised to move in the opposite direction for pounds 100,000, having spent the last six weeks of the season on loan at St Andrew's.

Birmingham's manager, Trevor Francis, said: "Jonathan has had talks with Jim Smith, and Darren will have his medical tomorrow. I hope everything can be tied up before I go away on holiday later in the week."

Hunt, Birmingham's player of the year and leading scorer in the 1995- 96 season, said: "I'm confident I can play in the Premiership. I'm disappointed with the way things have worked out at Birmingham and it's clear I'm not in the manager's plans, so I must look elsewhere.

"I know Jim Smith wants to sign me and hopefully it will all be sorted out very quickly."

Wassall's arrival at City coincided with a nine-match unbeaten run which came too late for them to secure a play-off place.