English football on verge of civil war?
The Football League's dramatic refusal to sanction the Premier League's £400m funding offer has left the Premier League very angry indeed.
"We're in no rush," said an unnamed Football League club chairman as he and 71 others headed away from the Walkers Stadium's Great Hall after the emergency meeting at Leicester City's ground. "Why should we just accept what the Premier League tell us we should take? We need time to go away and discuss this."
But they don't have time. Because the Premier League is playing hard-ball and has set a deadline of the third week in May. It says it needs to have its spending plans in place before the AGM in early June and says it is a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
Premier League has offered £400m to Football League after securing lucrative television deals
The package included an increase in parachute payments, which is the monies handed to relegated clubs to soften the financial shock of the drop. Under the new deal this would more than double from £22m over two years to a massive £48m over four years.
Some Premier League clubs thought the package was too generous anyway - so there was widespread dismay that it wasn't snapped up gratefully.
As far as they are concerned the Football League can "take it or leave it". If it chooses to leave it then the parachute payments will remain at the current level (£22m over two years) but solidarity payments from the richest league in the world would cease. And that would be of huge significance.
Take a League Two club for instance. For the last three years it has received on average £72,000 a season from Premier League solidarity payments.
Under the Premier League's new three-year plan, starting from next season, they would receive a bumper £250,000 a season. Some may describe that as generous on the part of the top-flight, which is under no official obligation to give away anything to the lower leagues.
Others would say it only amounts to what some top Premier League players earn in less than two weeks!
But imagine how crucial that money could be to a club with an average gate of 4000.
League Two clubs receive only £430,000 a season from their own league's broadcasting deal with the BBC and Sky. Premier League clubs on the other hand get an average £40m a season.
In League One there's even more at stake. At the moment clubs in the division get about £108,000 a season from the Premier League. Now the Premier League is offering to increase that to £325,000 a year.
So why are clubs in Leagues One and Two jeopardising such vital funds?
What's clear is that a new fault-line has appeared in the English game between the Championship (23 out of 24 were in favour of the deal I'm told) and the 48 clubs in the lower two leagues (where there was unanimous opposition).
Most of the clubs in the Championship have spent time in the top-flight in the last 18 years, so there is a natural overlap between the two leagues.
Three years ago when the Premier League offered solidarity payments for the first time, the Football League simply accepted them, just grateful for the charity. So why now does the professional game stand on the brink of civil war?
Since its recovery from the ITV Digital fiasco, the Football League has forged an identity, and is proud of negotiating its current lucrative broadcasting deal, the first year of which has seen impressive audiences.
Therefore there is some unease at the strings the Premier League has attached to its offer, which largely constitute a 'standardisation' of the rulebook that governs the two leagues. This is seen in some cases as an encroachment on the 'sovereignty' of the Football League, and is being resisted.
But of far greater concern is the doubling of parachute payments to clubs relegated from the Premier League. As new Football League chairman Greg Clarke suggested on Thursday, many clubs fear this injection of cash to 'ex-Premier League clubs' could make it almost impossible in the future for a club like Blackpool, who have not benefited from such parachutes, to launch themselves into the top-flight.
Those lucky enough to be in the top two divisions now would in time secure their dominance. And those unfortunate enough to be outside of the club at this point in time would be effectively locked out.
The Football League now has three weeks to reconvene 72 chairmen in one place at one time yet again in order to vote on the proposals.
If they approve the plan, this will go down as a small and symbolic rebellion that was quickly snuffed out.
But if Clarke cannot secure an agreement among his highly disparate gang, then the English game will be on the brink of civil war, and the Championship will ask whether a breakaway from the lower leagues is the only option.
Bolton Chairman Phil Gartside's vision of a Premier League 2 could come to pass after all.