Burns dismisses Phoenix claims

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The Independent Football

The Football League chief executive, David Burns, repeated yesterday that he does not expect any clubs to resign next month.

There has been speculation that a second Premiership league is to be formed under the banner of the Phoenix League with the First Division sides Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves, as well as Glasgow giants Rangers and Celtic, ready to join.

"As far as I am concerned, the Phoenix League is a dead duck,'' Burns insisted. ''If there is a plan, no one has seen it or at least no one is admitting it. I certainly haven't seen any plans and it hasn't been tabled at the Football League. It's not been mentioned, it's not been discussed.

"I accept the fans and the owners of the clubs in the First, Second and Third Divisions would all dearly love to be in the Premiership. There is no escaping that. The financial gap between Division One and the Premier League is now well documented. If you are relegated, it will hurt you.

"But the Football League hasn't been as healthy as it is now for years. We've got our best-ever broadcasting deal and attendances are up.

"I am willing to put money on it that none of those clubs resign on 11 December.

''Unless someone has got a commercial plan which has got an associated broadcasting contract with it, which is as good as or better, than the one we've got with ITV digital, then it won't happen."

The Birmingham chairman, David Gold, said they had no intention of breaking away. "I have heard about this on and off for years – it's a rumour that has been rumbling around," he said.

"But I have no first-hand knowledge of this supposed deal and Birmingham City will not be leaving the Football League.

"This came up about five or six years ago when there was talk of a breakaway First Division, now it appears to be only selected clubs. What is new, of course, is talk of bringing Celtic and Rangers down which I can see the validity of. But it's all conjecture."

However, Rangers and Celtic could compete in the Worthington Cup. "It is something we will consider,'' Burns said. ''It is a difficult thing politically and, if it is going to happen, it is one of those things best negotiated in private.

"The question is when it will happen, not if. But I've no idea when that will happen. The reality is that one of our jobs is to develop our products and make sure that they are attractive to the public.

"The Worthington Cup has never been more popular with 1.5m fans at games in the tournament last year."

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