Premier League B-team plan branded 'disgraceful' as clubs fail to vocalise support
Key plank of FA Commission's findings hits trouble just moments after their official presentation by chairman
Sam Wallace is Football Correspondent for The Independent.
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Thursday 08 May 2014
Greg Dyke's proposal for a fifth-tier B-team league, made up of Premier League reserve and academy players, looks dead in the water after a huge backlash from Football League clubs and a lack of support from the elite clubs the Football Association chairman cited as in favour.
The recommendation formed the key part of his England Commission report into finding ways to increase the number of English footballers in the top two divisions and was supported by the likes of Roy Hodgson, Rio Ferdinand, Glenn Hoddle and Dario Gradi, all Commission members who lent their name to the report.
However, within minutes of his presentation being made at Wembley, Dyke's proposal that B teams be introduced into a new fifth division – with scope to be promoted as high as League One – was comprehensively shot down by Football League clubs. Portsmouth chief executive Mark Catlin called the plan: "Disgraceful and a complete joke."
The Football League itself said that the proposal was not "acceptable" and urged the FA to find an alternative solution that did not involve the 72 Football League clubs "carrying a disproportionate and unreasonable burden".
Asked for his response to the Football League's statement, Dyke said: "That's about what I expected."
Under the Dyke proposals, it is understood that Premier League clubs would pay £2 million annually for the privilege of having a B team in either the new fifth division or the Conference. Dyke named Manchester United, Manchester City, Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur as having said to him that they support the idea in principle, although there was no public support from those clubs for the idea.
Dyke said that just because the Premier League's executive was in opposition – chief executive Richard Scudamore declined to take a place on the Commission – that did not mean the individual clubs were against it. "You have to distinguish sometimes between the League and the clubs," Dyke said. "Let's remember, we invited the Premier League to sit on this... you must look at the distinction between the league and the clubs. A lot of the clubs want this.
"There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm from the big clubs for this. Liverpool, the Manchester clubs, Stoke, Tottenham – they have no problems with me mentioning them on this – so quite a lot of clubs recognise the problem they have got."
Approval from the Premier League would require a two-thirds majority of the 20 clubs to vote for the B-team league. The Football League would require a 75 per cent majority of its 72 clubs, plus a 75 per cent majority of the 24 clubs in the Championship.
Citing the fall in numbers of English players in the Premier League, especially among its top clubs, Dyke said he wanted the number of Englishman playing regularly in the league to rise from its current level of 66 to 90 by 2022. For the good of the English game and the England team he said that he would "urge those in the football world to consider our proposals constructively and with open minds".
Later, Howard Wilkinson, one of the Commission members who co-presented the report's findings, joked that the England team was in danger of becoming "like Cyprus", currently ranked 130th in the world by Fifa, just one place above Suriname.
While the Premier League clubs kept their counsel, a number of Football League clubs were less reticent. Caitlin of Portsmouth not only called the plan, "disgraceful and a complete joke", but added that it showed "a total lack of respect for Football League clubs".
Darragh MacAnthony, chairman of League One side Peterborough, was equally opposed to the report. He said: "It's all about ME, ME & ME from the Football Association and the Premier League and to hell with the rest of you. Can't be allowed to happen!"
The television pundit Gary Lineker described the B-team proposal as "nonsense". He tweeted: "The FA commission has, after months of brainstorming, come up with the master plan of a B team league... As you were."
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