The Premier League is set to be at loggerheads with the Football Association over its chairman Greg Dyke’s plans for the most radical shake-up of English football in more than 20 years: proposals for a fifth division made-up of the elite clubs’ B teams.
The recommendations, part of Dyke’s FA commission looking into the dearth of English footballers in the top flight, are due to be presented to the FA board today. They focus on a division inserted between League Two and the Conference made up of reserve teams of mainly Premier League clubs.
It would seek to imitate the successful feeder team system that exists in Spanish football but there is serious doubt in the Premier League whether this idea will even reach first base among the top clubs – those who are supposed to benefit most from it
In theory, the Premier League B teams would be allowed to rise, through promotion, as high as League One, but no further. They could also be relegated to the Conference but no lower. It would change the whole dynamic of the football pyramid in which any club can rise from amateur football into the three divisions of 72 Football League clubs and on into the Premier League.
There is concern as to the details of how Dyke’s plan would potentially work. One worry is that the top of League One would become a bottle-neck for the top B teams, who would be able to rise no further but would prevent smaller independent clubs from gaining promotion.
There is likely to be considerable opposition from the Football League, whose members would be most affected. Dyke will meet the League board later today to explain the recommendations.
In the meantime the Football League issued a statement saying it would listen to the details of Dyke’s proposals “to better understand the rationale…and to ask practical questions about their impact upon the League and its clubs.”
The Premier League is also concerned about the dilution of their brand, with the likes of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all fielding clubs outside the top flight. One source close to the process said that the Premier League clubs would benefit from having young players exposed to competitive football and matchday crowds rather than the low-key Under-21s league that currently operates.
Another proposed benefit is that the Premier League clubs would be able to dictate the style of play in their B teams, better preparing players for the first team. At the moment, the loan system offers young players competitive Football League experience but they have to adjust to the style of the club that they join.
As an independent FA chairman, Dyke sees his role as presenting radical solutions to the longstanding issues faced by the English game. He is well aware of the opposition it will attract and prepared for the recommendations to be thrown out, but believes the debate will at least stir some areas of the game into action.