Two-tier Premier League proposed by Gartside

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The Independent Football

One of the most senior figures in English football has called for revolutionary changes to the Premier League.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, one of the longest-serving chairmen in the top flight and a member of the Football Association's board, is proposing a two-division Premier League be set up - and perhaps even with no relegation to the Football League.

Gartside has also demanded that British club owners be protected from foreign tycoons and for consideration to be given for players to be wage-capped.

He admits his call will cause huge controversy, especially with clubs in the lower leagues, but said it was vital that football had a debate to address problems in the game and the increasing lack of competitiveness at the top of Premier League.

Gartside told PA Sport: "We have to start considering what the structure of the league is, and it is time to look at two Premier Leagues - Premier League One and Premier League Two - and the way the finance is allocated.

"You could have 36 Premier League clubs split into 18 and 18 and that would also solve the problems of the winter break and supporting the England team.

"It would even everything out and it would make it more competitive on that basis.

"We have already got to the situation where the three clubs that go down from the Premier League are usually the three that come up, although a couple of others might sneak in.

"I don't have the answers but it is certainly time for a debate - perhaps even on not having relegation from a second division of the Premier League."

Gartside, who has been a Bolton director for 20 years and chairman for nine, said clubs should not fear change.

He added: "It would be revolutionary but I don't think this would be as revolutionary as when the Premier League was set up, and we should open our minds to change. I know a lot of Football League clubs won't like it - but a lot will.

"If the FA and the Government are going to start looking at debt structure and financial constraints on clubs then we are going to have to do something."

Gartside added that owners of clubs such as Bolton, Middlesbrough, Wigan and Blackburn needed protection from the invasion of overseas investors.

"The traditional type of owner are something of a dying breed, instead you have the Sheikh of wherever and people like the Glazers coming in.

"Local businessmen like [Bolton owner] Eddie Davies, the late Jack Walker [at Blackburn], Dave Whelan [Wigan] and Steve Gibson [Middlesbrough] have given their town teams unbelievable financial backing.

"They need to be protected in some way from the influx of outside investors with seemingly unlimited funds."

Gartside said time was running out - because once foreign owners became an overall majority in the Premier League it would be impossible to protect their interests.

"There is still talk about foreign takeovers of Newcastle, Everton and Liverpool, again, and once we have 14 foreign owners in the Premier League we have a problem," he said.

"At the moment we can still muster enough votes against anything that might change the structure for the worse. Come the day when you have 14 foreign owners we won't be able to do that."

Gartside has also changed his mind about wage-capping and now believes it might be the only way to maintain competitiveness.

The Bolton chairman added: "I have been against wage-capping in the past but it has come to the point now where we have to look seriously at it.

"When Manchester City go out and spend £30m on a player and then pay him whatever he wants as a salary, then that raises the bar for us next time we go into the transfer market.

"We have to look to see whether we can bring in a system of wage-capping, perhaps like they have in American football or Aussie rules."

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