Back in September 2013 FA Chairman Greg Dyke announced his intention to lead a Commission to improve England's future prospects at international level.
Dyke consulted 650 people and was advised on the Commission by Hodgson, Rio Ferdinand, Glenn Hoddle, Danny Mills, Howard Wilkinson, Ritchie Humphreys, Greg Clarke, Dario Gradi and Roger Burden.
Details of their conclusions were released today and one area in particular is already causing animated discussion up and down the country.
They have set a target of increasing the number of English players playing regularly in the Premier League from 66 to 90 by 2022. On the face of it, those of us that feel that the sheer volume of foreign players in our game today has seriously damaged the growth of English players for our National team, can only be pleased.
His proposals as to how we achieve this have however caused much consternation amongst supporters of lower league clubs.
Dyke has proposed the introduction of SLPs, Strategic Loan Partnerships, a new system which would effectively lead to feeder clubs by allowing wealthy clubs to place eight players in two clubs in League One or Two. He also wants B teams in a new League 3 between League 2 and the Conference, a move that will change the historic structure of the 92-strong professional league and surely affect its sporting integrity.
Dyke said that one of the issues inhibiting the development "of elite English players" is the "inadequate and insufficient competitive playing opportunities for 18-21 year old elite players at top clubs in England"
Dyke seems to already have support from Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Spurs and Stoke.
Looking first at the scheme for Strategic Loan Partnership (SLP) between clubs; this would run alongside existing loan arrangements. Under SLP regulations, the lending club would have more say on how often the loanee played. Premier League and Championship clubs could loan up to eight players to two partner clubs in League One or Two "although only five could be on the team sheet at any one time". In other words if Pompey and Northampton agreed to partner say Chelsea, then they could each have say 4 Chelsea loanees and could be forced to field all of them even when playing each other! The participating small clubs would have a financial reward in return for having their team selection decided by a bigger club.
Many Football League clubs will fear that SLP is feeder clubs by any other name. The Football Supporters’ Federation polled fans on this a couple of years ago and 86% opposed the idea of 'feeder' clubs.
You can read the FSF submission to the FA's consultation at the turn of the year which included a section on this at http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fsf-statement-on-the-fas-england-commission-report
The other proposal is "the creation of a new League Three in the Football League". These B teams should contain an average of 15 English players in their squads but they "would not be able to rise above League One or play in the FA Cup". So they would be involved in promotion and relegation to/from Leagues One and Two and the Conference. Just a thought but what if say 10 of them end up in League One; they couldn’t get promoted but the team in eleventh place would.
"Across most of Europe, B teams provide the crucial first stage of an effective bridge between the academy and the first team," argued Dyke. That may be true but have you looked at attendances in the lower leagues abroad? Could it be that fans don’t turn up to watch their side play someone else’s reserves? In fact would Chelsea fans already paying over £50 per game in the Premier League fork out again to watch their reserves or would these B teams play to empty stadiums?
Our own CEO, Mark Catlin, wrote an excellent article on B teams whilst still at Bury FC - http://www.totalfootballmag.com/features/columnists/the-mark-catlin-column-to-b-or-not-to-b-that-is-the-question/
We have some strong views on this on the Trust Board but we would like to hear your thoughts.
For or against, put your comments in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org