Breakaway? Get away, not that old chestnut

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The Independent Online

Another breakaway? David Burns, the Football League's chief executive, has heard it all before. "This is just something that has been floated," he said in an interview on Radio 5 Live yesterday. "It's like the daffodils – it comes out every year."

Dan Johnson, the communications executive for the Premier League, was similarly dismissive. "There is no prospect of a restructuring of the Premier League," he said. "This story seems to keep coming round again and again. The Premier League has been consistent in its view throughout. It is complete nonsense."

The idea of a Second Division of the Premier League has, after all, been around since before agreement was finalised on the original breakaway. PL2 – sequel or prequel?

More interested in logistical problems than the perceived logic of such a move, as reported in yesterday's morning newspapers, Burns said: "I look forward to seeing the plans for a breakaway league. There is a meeting of all 72 league chairmen in Nottingham on Thursday to discuss ITV Digital and the strike negotiations, and maybe the plans will get an airing there."

That could prove tricky. There are no plans to air, it seems, just a collection of notions plucked from a folder labelled "That sounds like a reasonable idea".

But the beauty of the Friday night floater is that so long as the basic idea carries enough credibility, however superficial, it will survive a weekend of pub chat without being brought to earth even if it begins to show the odd puncture mark. All those denials? They would say that, wouldn't they?

Bryan Richardson, the chairman of relegated Coventry City and apparently a prime mover, joined the gainsayers. "This is old hat," he said, "and I can't imagine why it has suddenly reared up again. Talks about possible ways of reorganising have been going on for ages and the fact that Premiership clubs are scared to death of being relegated makes it a more attractive proposition."

The logic of another exodus from the Football League, by clubs who feel they should be invited to the Premier League party, is reasonable at first glance. The financial gap between the Premier's élite and the Nationwide League First Division is too large to bridge. "Big" clubs are on the wrong side of the divide. Television, football's golden goose, is unhappy that the game in its present format is not attracting an audience and ITV, in particular, wants to renegotiate.

And, of course, Rangers and Celtic, wrapped neatly into this latest canard, cannot wait to play in England. David Murray, the Rangers chairman, raised that issue yet again on Friday as he tried to explain why annual accounts showed his club's finances going south. But wait is just what the Old Firm would have to do. Lex Gold, the chairman of the Scottish Premier League, pointed out that they would have to give two years' notice of leaving the SPL.

Burns also noted that a new competition would need Football Association approval, and asked about promotion and relegation; and then there is the issue of European qualification for the Old Firm from a foreign league...

It is all a touch trickier than growing daffodils.

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