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Mawhinney tackles the big issues

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Paul Fletcher | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009

With the Football League season out of the way following its climax which saw Burnley's victory over Sheffield United, now is a good time to take stock of the big issues facing the competition.

Try a few of these on for size - the credit crunch, a transfer embargo, the formation of two Premier League divisions, the home-grown player rule, wage-capping, the future of the transfer window and the widening gulf between the top flight and the Championship.

They might not necessarily be as exciting as a discussion about who your team is going to buy over the summer or their prospects for next season, but they are of huge significance and transcend the importance of any single club.

With this in mind, I sat down in the stands at Wembley with Football League chairman Lord Brian Mawhinney a few hours before Scunthorpe's League One play-off final against Millwall to get his take on what really matters at the moment.

More people watched the Championship last season than Italy's Serie A and attendances in the Football League topped 16m for the fifth successive season - a fact of which Mawhinney was rightly proud.

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But the sponsorship deals, corporate hospitality agreements and a large portion of season ticket sales had all been agreed before the advent of the credit crunch.

What sort of impact will it have next season and how worried should we be?

"I think it is likely there will be more pressure on clubs," Mawhinney, a former Conservative party cabinet minister, told me. "Sponsorship and corporate hospitality - areas like that are hurting.

"Up and down the country businesses are being squeezed and closing, people are losing their jobs. I know people look at clubs in terms of passion and fans and so on but they are also businesses, they have an income and expenditure and if they get out of line then they have a problem."

The last club to go to the wall and resign from the League was Maidstone United in 1992. Plenty have come close since but managed to survive. When I asked Mawhinney whether it is realistic that another could go the same way in the near future the 68-year-old admitted that he did not know. In the 20 or so minutes that the interview lasted it was the only question for which he did not have an answer.

What can the Football League do to help? Well, here Mawhinney is more expansive - pointing to the new and vastly improved television deal that starts next season, with 10 Championship fixtures to be shown live on the BBC.

He also wrote to the clubs a year ago to warn them about their cost control arrangements, underlining the need for good business practice and sustainable budgets.

And over the last few months Mawhinney has pushed very hard for a wage cap - but this is not going to happen. "The votes simply weren't there," he told me. "Particularly at the Championship end."

There is also a desperate need to modernise the relationship between the clubs and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - and this is where the proposed transfer embargo comes in.

Why? Well, if a club wants to come out of administration they must agree a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with 75% of the people or companies to whom they owe money.

But this has become extremely complicated of late. I know it sounds boring but it is hugely important - just ask Bournemouth, Rotherham and Luton.

Football League rules means that football creditors - mainly in the form of player wages - must be paid in full. HMRC doesn't like this as it has to settle for the same (usually reduced) rate that every other non-football creditor receives. The catch is this: often what HMRC is owed is more than 25% of a club's debt and so it can - and has - been blocking CVAs.

A club can then only leave administration by appealing to the Football League extraordinary circumstances regulation - and in reality this comes with an extra points deduction.

"I defend that 100% because that is trying to look after the integrity of the competition," said Mawhinney. "But I don't like that because no football fan likes points deductions so we are trying to move to a new system to prevent HMRC getting to 25%."

If it is voted in at the League's AGM, there will be a transfer embargo for clubs falling behind on their payments to the tax man. "We're trying to move to a system where prevention is better than cure," added Mawhinney. In effect he is trying to head off HMRC at the pass.

The chairman also wants to see the end of the transfer window for the domestic movement of players. "Our clubs have suffered and our income has suffered, no question," said Mawhinney.

His argument on this point is clear - and just amount every lower league manager I have spoken to is in agreement. Smaller clubs cannot sell a player to balance the books and so the Football League - in effect English football's secondary league - is suffering for legislation that was brought in primarily with international, top-end transfers in mind.

"We don't want to throw the whole thing out root and branch but internally in domestic markets it should not penalise secondary leagues and we are being penalised," said the chairman.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter, of course, is also trying to champion a "six-plus-five" rule, which would limit the number of foreign players to five in any starting XI. Mawhinney, a former senior government minister in Brussels, does not think it will work from a legal point of view. Instead, from next season every Football League team will have to have at least four players in their matchday squad that have been registered domestically for at least three years.

"While other people have been talking about things we have tried to do something," the chairman told me. Personally, I'm not sure how much of an impact the rule will have in practical terms. Limiting squad sizes is an idea that might work on several different levels but Mawhinney is adamant that it is not on the immediate agenda.

What Mawhinney does want is more money from the Premier League to counter the ripple effect of players wages that runs down through the divisions and forces up Football League wage bills.

"We have floated the idea that we could look at the aggregate of wages in the Premier League and then have an arrangement whereby a percentage of that might be given to the Football League to offset the upward pressure on wages," said Mawhinney. The current solidarity arrangement is worth in the region of £30m per year.

Mawhinney reckons that the gap between the Premier League and the Championship is becoming significantly wider and represents "the single greatest challenge to professional football in this country" as the financial divide between the leagues expands.

But he is adamant that the idea of a two-tier Premier League proposed by Bolton chairman Phil Gartside has no chance of becoming a reality.

"It is not going to happen, it is nonsense," said Mawhinney.

"Let me do a little bit of arithmetic for you - Mr Gartside said he would like two leagues of 18 teams - that is 36. He has got 20 in the Premier League and he wants Celtic and Rangers - that means he needs 14 clubs from the Championship.

"You take 14 out of the Championship and it wrecks the Football League. So it started in 1888 and Mr Gartside kills it in 2009 - I don't think so."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    one real problem is championship coverage, is still find it difficult to get to games, which means i have to watch them, which is again difficult, when i dont have sky or setanta. Though this does seem to be improving with bbc coverage.

  • Comment number 2.

    SkyEastwood, are you seriously complaining about not seeing games because YOU can't get to the games and YOU don't want to get Sky?

    The avenues to see them are there, its your problem if you don't want to take any of them up. Of course the Championship is well covered if more people watch it than Serie A!

  • Comment number 3.

    Clubs need to do more to counter problems themselves.

    Attendances for the Championship may be high, but for my club Palace, they've been falling year on year since our relegation from the Premier League in 2005, and the club have done absolutely nothing to combat this. They finally seem to have adopted an idea that supporters have been coming up with a few years, of buying a ticket for six (I think it is) games, in which you can pick the six you want to go to, at cheaper rates. I read about Bristol Rovers' recent sponsorship raffle idea and thought it was a fantastic idea, an example of a club taking a proactive part in combating the problems that the Football League is inevitably going to face in the next couple of years.

  • Comment number 4.

    ChristalPalace

    People want to watch a winning team and/or attractive football, preferrably both. No amount of special ticket deals will bring more people in to watch a defensive team lose or draw.

    Palace lost 33 games last season and scored 52 goals in 46 games.

    Simples!

  • Comment number 5.

    Mawhinney is absolutely right, the idea of a two-tier Premier League is absolute nonsense, and i'd like to think the majority of (sane) fans would agree. By doing this, Gartside would essentially be eliminating the 58 English and Welsh clubs of the 92 outside the would be two top tiers with the Scottish teams. The thought of it is disgraceful, and serves as an excellent example of the greed surrounding English Football at the moment, and as a Norwich City fan, i personally find the proposal of the potential elimination of my club (although we're certainly making an effort of taking the credit for that ourselves at the moment), amongst others in the lower leagues, offensive.

    With an attitude like this, the greed at the top of modern day football will, guaranteed, destroy the grass roots of English football. I hope Gartside is not so short sighted as to see no shame in the statement and proposal he made, although i can't say that i'd be suprised if he continues to be the small minded, selfish bigot of that of which is so typical of Premier League Chairman.

    However, i think the problem at hand now is that there seems to be too much stabillity from top to bottom. Those at the top of the league have the money to progress on the same level that they have for the past decade, and unless managed in an inappropriate manner, will rarely enter decline, and we'll continue to proceed for as long as the game lasts with relative comfort. Teams toward the bottom of the league are also embedded in their typical expectation of success and failiure, and without investment, don't have any realistic hope of really improving as a club, but neither do they have much to worry about. I think that this stabillity has essentially destroyed the competitive aspect of English football, and for a Premier League chairman to propose a 36 team, two tier league, is not only an utter joke, but more than that, an act of complete cowardess.

    I think in order to tackle this you need to impose far more instability at the top end of the league, and provide a realistic hope of a bright future for those at the bottom. Shake 'em up at the top. Let them know that their not "the be all and end all" in English football, and provide the fans at the bottom with a reason to once again believe in their club and it's existence.

    I personally propose that we vastly enlarge the relegation zones, and promotion zones, in tables up and down the league. It's the only way we're going to finally make English football competitive again, and with so much money in the game, it's indisputable that the leagues need a massive change, and i believe this is the only way to bring the old spirit of the game back to it. In doing this we will get rid of the comfort teams like Portsmouth, Bolton, and Blackburn now experience, and better than that, bring back hope to all the clubs down in the lower leagues of a future worth fighting for.

    This is only off the top of my head, but i propose a system like this :

    Premier League : 8 Teams Relegated
    Championship : 8 Teams Promoted

    Championship : 7 Teams Relegated
    League One : 7 Teams Promoted

    League One : 7 Teams Relegated
    League Two : 7 Teams Promoted

    League Two : 4 Teams Relegated
    Conference : 4 Teams Promoted

  • Comment number 6.

    What a pile of nonsense. We'll turn the premiership and the recently relegated into a quasi US COllege football conference; in other words a cartel. I suspect that all this is going on because the Old Firm wants in to the big money trough and keeps up a whiney PR campaign. As a result we have to change the English game. No thanks.

  • Comment number 7.

    I am of the opinion that the football league is successful despite what Lord Mawhinney does, not because of it.

    A number of largish clubs have been relegated from the Prem and that has boosted the attendances. Also, I feel some fans are finding the predictability of the Premiership to be boring and you get better value for money going to watch your local club in the football league.

    The punishments on clubs that get into financial trouble is a big issue. I understand the rules were voted by the clubs themselves, but despite all this, point deductions only ever punish fans.

    Taking Southampton as an example, it's not the fault of any Saints fan that our club was ruined by a handful of individuals. But we suffer on the pitch and then off it. It's kicking fans when they are down.

    The football league could at least ban for life, individuals who are on the board of clubs when they go into administration. They should never ever have any involvement in football clubs again, and probably should even be banned from watching football. If the authorities can ban a silly kid for running on the pitch, why not a director who has manipulated fans and club accounts and then got away scot-free?!

  • Comment number 8.

    That'll make the league exciting, not a two tier Premier League that see's the exact same clubs finish in almost the exact same positions every year. "Wow, how brilliantly competitive that is Gartside" :/.

    That's not how it should be, and it destroys the spirit of the game, and those who support this idea should be ashamed to deny other clubs, just as, if not more passionate than you, the oppertunity to have a little success and hope once and again.

  • Comment number 9.

    At the very least the Bolton Chairman is offering up an idea for constructive discussion in an attempt to alleviate the current widening gap between the top half dozen and the rest, including the Championship. Mawhinney offers Nothing, his efforts are confined to point deductions upon those in dire peril of going out of business. A silly and infantile policy which actually allows his previously approved franchisee's to walk away scot free, whilst punishing new investors wishing to join the FL. His organisation cannot even administer equitable governance over those clubs currently holding their franchise. The Football League are not fit for purpose and by comparison with the Premier League are totally devoid of both Commercial and Business acumen.

    The best Mawhinney can now suggest is that the Premier League fund the rest, which in effect is like asking current EPL players to cough up and subsidise wages at Rotherham or Barnet. Whilst during these difficult financial times a Cap on top salaries would be very prudent, Mawhinney's idea is typical of the previous nonsense coming out of the FL. The total sum of their expertise is to hold out the Begging Bowl and blame anyone and everyone for their lack of foresight.

  • Comment number 10.

    Gartside is simply looking for a way that means Bolton will never be relegated from the Premier League. Complete self-interest is all it is.

  • Comment number 11.

    The league is safe from Gartside but we are still stuck with him as our visionary.We didn't need Dr Mawhinney to tell us Gartside talks nonsense; we've had to suffer him for far too long.

  • Comment number 12.

    'More people watched the Championship last season than Italy's Serie A'

    Whilst I agree that's an impressive stat, it should also be remembered that the Championship has 4 more teams in its division than Serie A and therefore, more games taking place over the whole season.

  • Comment number 13.

    The truth is that player expectations and salaries in the Premier League are out of touch with reality. A salary cap related to club income is needed, and income from television revenue cannot be included in that.

    Why can't live Championship football be shown on a Saturday afternoon on terrestrial channels ?
    Competion with Sky ? We're told that everyone wants to watch The Premiership, so surely not. Leagues One and Two could be shown live on Sundays or on a Tuesday night. The fans are interested, the clubs would welcome the money, and it would make free football available for youngsters to watch again.

  • Comment number 14.

    #13

    The problem with that is that individual clubs often depend on their gate fees far more in the FL than the PL, so putting more games on TV will also decrease attendances.

  • Comment number 15.

    Mawhinney is a joke. For him to admit that the football league were "unaware" of the FA's points penalty against Luton Town, before his own separate and ultimately fatal points deduction beggars belief. For the UK's two largest football authorities to not liase on matters as important as these to their member clubs is gross negligence at the very best. Mawhinney is no friend of the small or struggling club.

  • Comment number 16.

    A good article from Paul that highlights many of the problems facing ALL of the league, not just those with a 'begging bowl'.

    Couple of points there, since the EPL is wildly in debt, on the one side due to inflated wages and on the other due to dodgy investors bringing debt with them, and is currently only kept afloat by TV revenue NOT by gate receipts and 'merchandise' ie actual 'over the counter' income, I hardly think they can be held up as 'a good business model' as compared to the Football League.

    Any organisation that is (totally) reliant on the generosity of megalomaniac billionaires (be that Sky or 'investors') rather than what it can actually afford by prudent use of income either from the punters of advertisers is living in cloud cuckoo land not the 'real business world'.

    I don't rate Mr Mawhinny either, but what Gartside is proposing makes no sense even in terms of what it claims to be doing. How exactly will a two tier EPL benefit the lesser lights? By giving more money to the top tier (because I can't see one single big four team signing up otherwise)? By bringing in two awesomely average Scottish sides with dodgy support? At the expense of er, whom Mr Gartside? By effectively muscling out 'the rest'? Does he really think (and i mean that in both senses) for a minute that somehow the bigger clubs playing less games will make them less dominant? C'mon...........

    At Less Mawhinney accepts there is a problem, listening to the head in the sand merchants in the EPL, you'd think there was no global recession at all......

  • Comment number 17.

    12. At 12:34pm on 01 Jun 2009, Rupert P Matley wrote:
    'More people watched the Championship last season than Italy's Serie A'

    Whilst I agree that's an impressive stat, it should also be remembered that the Championship has 4 more teams in its division than Serie A and therefore, more games taking place over the whole season.

    =============================================================

    and there will be more next season with Newcastle going down.

  • Comment number 18.

    The issue of paying football creditors in full - regardless of the situation is, in my opinion one of the key things that is wrong with the current system.

    Consider a club that decides to overstretch itself by bringing in players on wages that it cannot afford in the long term for transfer fees that are beyond its means. HMRC and numerous local businesses suffer by not recieving as much of the money as they should, yet the players and other clubs recieve what is owed to them in full (providing the club remains in business).

    In this situation what reason is there for clubs to be cautious about who they sell players to for 'big' money - they'll most likely recieve it regardless of the financial state of the club they are selling to. As for the players, they know that their wages are essentially guaranteed even if they move to a club living beyond its means.

    If this were not the case, there would be an in built mechanism to make it more challenging for clubs to get into these poor position, as players would start to look at whether their potential new employer had the means to honour their contract and selling clubs would be cautious about whether they would recieve the transfer fee in full. Players may end up going to more financially responsible clubs for lower wages and lower transfer fees than were on offer elsewhere, because these financial commitments were more likely to be met.

  • Comment number 19.

    Sussex_King_Canary

    I'm not convinced that more instability is what is required. I really think more financial prudence from football teams (including my own!!)would better serve their purpose. Everton is a good example of this for instance. They have built a squad capable of challenging for a Champions League place over a number of years for a relatively small sum.

    Your levels of relegation and promotion are however quite ridiculous. Why would anone agree to relegating 45% of the Premier League every year!! This would simply mean the parachute payments would increase!! Those clubs that have come into trouble (Leeds being the obvious) are those that have spent far more than they have or overestimated their projected earnings and not adjusted accordingly. In the Leeds example after reaching a CL semi final they spent far too much cash because they assumed they would be able to push on and get further. Having failed to make the competition the next season they went into financial meltdown because of transfer fees owed and players wages.

    The worst thing to happen to these clubs is a points reduction which, in my opinion, mainly serves to further increase the financial trouble. Either that club is further relegated, and therefore earns less money in the lower league. Or they manage to survive but in a lower position than they should have finished and again lose revenue.

    Just as one last thought, I wonder why these things don't happen on the continent? Or do we just not hear about it? Also what other country has 92 professional teams over 4 leagues?

  • Comment number 20.

    Gartside is doing this to further his own interests, pathetic little worm that he is - he just wants to make sure that if Bolton go down, which they will at some point, then they can potentially make more money in the premier league's bottom division than they could in the football league's top one - typical small club chairman mentality. I always used to have a soft spot for Bolton, but not since this silly little man came up with these ridiculous proposals that reek of self interest. That goodness Lord Mawhinney is treating his ideas with the contempt they deserve.

    As for letting Rangers and Celtic join, sorry, but no way - they are Scottish teams, and have nothing to do with English football, and that's the way it should stay - England and Scotland were the first two international football teams, and their leagues and FAs have always been separate, and should remain that way.

    Apart from anything else, I think they'd be in for a pretty healthy shock after the years of comfort having to only play four truly competitive league games (against each other) each year. They'd both be relegated within three seasons, probably less.

  • Comment number 21.

    Surely the Scottish FA would put a stop to this as it would essentially be a british premier league (especially as Cardiff and Swansea will be in premier league 2). This would further push FIFA to asking for a british international team as opposed to separate teams, and would also cut down on the number of Champions league / europa league poitions available to the top teams.

    A ridiculous stance to take and one that I am sure will never come to fruition.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Thankfully Gartside will not get his way. He overlooked one thing, the greed of other PL clubs. He may get 5 or 6 votes from the permanently relegation threatened clubs, but for the vast majority of safe clubs, this would mean a loss of two home games and two away games, along with the requisite dop in TV money that would bring. None of them will vote for it so the greedy so and s's who ruined the Scottish league can forget it, they are not gonna get in and Gartside can crawl off back undr whatever stone he calls a home.

  • Comment number 24.

    Has Gartside thought of the irrepairable damage that would be done to the Scottish Premier League should Rangers & Celtic leave it.

    It's an absolutely barmy idea to have these two clubs in the English Premier League.

    Should there be a need to tinker with the system and I'm not convinced there is, consider this. Take the top two clubs from each of the European leagues including the EPL and have a European Premier League. But think of the poor fans who might have to travel to Italy, Spain and other foreign parts every alternate weekends.

    No, on reflection,leave it as it is.

  • Comment number 25.

    Gartside's proposal is a non-starter.
    The Championship was watched by more people than Serie A. That is based only on gate receipts, *not* TV audiences...sadly, TV money rules the roost these days. Mawhinney is being a hypocrite asking the tax men to back off, did he ever do that when he was in govt.?
    I agree, Scottish clubs should not play in England, so why should Welsh clubs? Why does an English team (Berwick Rangers) play in Scotland and a UK team (Derry) play in the Eire league? Cake and eat it anyone?
    The FL will face financial problems (like all of us) the PL will too, that day cannot come soon enough - for the sake of football.

  • Comment number 26.

    #14 Cristalpalace

    I know league clubs rely more on gate attendance, but I'd be talking about 1 live game per week, per league. I think the increased local interest would mean an increased gate, but maybe I'm wrong. Either way we can't put the game back in its box and throw out TV. Love it or loathe it, live TV football is here to stay.

    In an ideal world football would tell television what matches it could televise and when, but Murdoch effectively owns the Premier League now, look at the way he's bullied them into giving Setanta less matches.

    My campaign is Football ~ Saturday ~ 3PM.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm all for reform, and would be excited by a Premier League with Celtic and Rangers involved.

    However, the idea of a closed shop for the 36 teams, with no relegation or promotion is a definite non-starter. The principle of relegation and promotion is fundamental, and must not be tampered with at all costs.

    The whole 'two-tier' Premier League idea doesnt make that much sense if all it will do is essentially re-name the Championship as PL2.
    As others have noted - with all due respect, the TV companies and most neutrals won't be rushing out with their credit cards to pay to watch Colchester v Bristol City, or whoever.

    No. If there are to be two PLs of 18 clubs each, they need to be filled with teams of equal quality. A PL North and PL South, for example. So, PL North will have Man Utd, Liverpool, Everton, Man City etc, as well as northern Championship teams like the Sheffields, Burnley etc.

    PL South will have equal quality - Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs etc, alongside QPR, Crystal Palace and so on.

    34 games in each league. Top 2 from each league meet in play offs to determine the League champion. 3rd and 4th in each league get into UEFA cup.

    And - relegation from both leagues (bottom 2 in each division) into the Football League - from which 4 will come up every year.

    It's just an idea. Personally, I'd rather keep things exactly as they are now...!

  • Comment number 28.

    King Arthuronice

    The Welsh clubs play in England, in the main, due to the tardiness of the FAW. When the likes of Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Merthyr were founded, there was no welsh league available for them to play in. Also the fact that Wales is a proncipality, rather than a country, meant there were no good reasons to keep them out. Look at Monaco, a principality playing in the French league.

    Deery City play in the league of Ireland for political reasons, they were forced to close down during the troubles and were only able to reform if they played in the Republic. The Good Friday Agreement sets out that everyone on the island of Ireland who considers them selves to be Irish can assert that claim. Derry are an Irish team.

    Berwick is a bit more unique, but historically the town has switched allegience to Edinburgh or London many times over the years. There is a campaign out aat the moment for the town tto become Scotttish yet again. In any case, they are far too small to even get into an interesting, worthwhile feeder league in the north-east of England.

    Agree with you about Mawhinney being a hypocrite, but feel that things have to be done to make sure that all clubs can pay their way in full, not only to all other clubs, but to all other creditors including HMR&C.

  • Comment number 29.

    1) two premier leagues - NO
    2) rangers and celtic - never, it would ruin scottish football
    3) one premier league of 18 clubs - yes it would be better for the players health and england; less games, so what; they get enough ££ anyway and also see 4(c) as the premiership are culprits here too and are missing out on filling all the seats
    4) The football family needs to look to the whole game in the UK not just its own club or league self interests. At lower levels £££ will get tighter and tighter for clubs AND fans. To stop more clubs going bust and fans not travelling action must be taken now. Be radical, broaden the debate, think outside the box and save our heritage now, so:-
    a) consider regionalisiation at div 2/3 or with 3/conference (it already works in the Blue Sq) + end of season playoffs. we used to have it in the 60's; cant remember when it was changed
    b) more local derbies, fans would cut their own travel costs and thereby might go to more away games and boost attendances
    c) Empty seats syndrome. ALL clubs must consider more imaginative and proactive ticketing policies in any 'minor' cup game or end of season 'no consequence' game. ( buy 6 get one free is a good idea Christalpalace; badgercourage has missed the point as it creates income for the club up front). What's better 10000 people paying £5 or 5000 people paying £10? A larger crowd makes more noise and buys more pies but dont alienate away supporters by charging them double!
    5) transfer window should just apply to buying players from outside the UK but that might not be legal under employement laws

  • Comment number 30.

    #28 QPR4Me
    I do not dispute your analysis one bit, my (minor) point was that if the inclusion of Rangers and Celtic would reduce the English 'exclusivity' of the league (as someone suggested) then a precedent has already been set.
    I just don't understand the logic of being anti-OF but accepting of Cardiff and Swansea. I detest the throwing of cash at the PL while the FL (not just the Championship) are left with bankruptcy or liquidation a constant threat. Whatever the answer, I fear Mr. Mawhinney is not it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Of course Mawhinney would say that wouldn't he? That's his job.
    He is essentially a "B team" cheerleader.

    If enough of the wealthy clubs and their sponsors/owners decide to change the structure of British football, then it will happen.
    Isn't that what happened when the Premiership was created?

    If they decide to do so again, then Mr Mawhinney will probably come up with reasons why it is a good idea. He's still a politician at heart.

  • Comment number 32.

    @27. Law, Best, Charlton

    Your proposal sounds like football as it was at the end of the 19th century/early 20th century!

    So in speculation as to how football moves forward, we move backward...

    Well you know what is the motvation behind Gartside's ideas.

    It's the fat cats at the top trying to cream more money out of the trough. And although people often criticise the Big four clubs- Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea- it's actually clubs like Bolton, hanging around in midtable mediocrity and scared of doing a Middlesbrough/Charlton, that want this two-tier PL with Celtic/Rangers because they're worried about relegation to the Championship and losing their Premiership cash.

  • Comment number 33.

    Rangers and Celtic will never join the English leagues. Just look at the fuss that the Scots raised about having a UK team for a one off Olympic games being held in the UK. Allowing Rangers and Celtic to leave would cause more damage than the one off Olympic football team.

    As for the Welsh teams, I guess that is more historic, as someone mentioned above the lack of an organised Welsh FA led to the major Welsh clubs being involved in English competitions and joining the English leagues (but they are still governed by the Welsh FA who will decide on red card appeals made by Cardiff/Swansea/Wrexham instead of the English FA!! bonkers)

  • Comment number 34.

    Before Premier League chairmans like Gartside allow greed and selfishness to cloud their judgement, they should help to reduce some of the key issues relevant today. The structure of the league works and has proved successful, so why change to something more closed, like a 2-tier PL? What the clubs should do is sort out more important problems, such as the ridiculous level of debt in the Premier League and the financial struggles of lower-league clubs. Ideas such as a salary cap related to annual turnover seem like good ideas, as does a home-grown quota (nb. this is different to the 6+5 rule as it does not contravene EU employment laws - it is similar to the quota that clubs in the champions league must oblige by). What I am trying to say is that the PL, FL and FA should attempt to sort out the current problems, rather than create new ones.

  • Comment number 35.

    Lord Mahwinney = prat. Enough said

  • Comment number 36.

    KingArthuronice

    As I said. the OF have been so anti-english. they have shot themselves in the foot to the extreme. The Welsh, just messed it up because they couldn't get their rear-ends in gear.

    The two arguments cannot be compared as Wales is not and never will be a "country", no matter how much Plaid Cymru (spelling??) bleat on about it.

    Just ask yourself one question, is it Cardiff, Swansea, etc's fault that it took the FAW over a hundred yeard to form a league of their own? I think you will find that the answer is no.

  • Comment number 37.

    I see that Mawhinney is still bleating on about point deductions upholding the "integrity of the competition". What absolute rubbish, where is the integrity in having a team effectively relegated before a ball is kicked because of a massive points deduction? At the same time he is talking of trying to find a sneaky way of blocking HRMC from voting against CVA's - now that's integrity. The man is nothing more than a big bag of wind!

  • Comment number 38.

    Oh, marvellous! More people watch the Championship than Serie A!

    That's the ultimate proof that I've been awaiting.

    Harness my carriage and set sail for Florence brothers and sisters

    Forgive the missing capitals but one has a certain hurry!!! Onwards and upwards!!! One loves you all.

  • Comment number 39.

    Have to agree that 2 prem leagues would be a non starter.
    However, with all the monies involved, especially for teams who have just been promoted to higher leagues, my thoughts would be to run the promotion/relegation battles for all leagues over 2 full seasons, with points from the first season carried over and added to the 2nd season.
    This would give newly promoted teams a chance to bank some money and strengthen their squads.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's good to see Mawhinney is still protecting the Football League's integrity; there couldn't be anything fairer than a League 2 last year with two teams on -17 points and one on -30. The fact that two of them were also given points deductions that relegated them the previous year for effectively the same offence just makes it even better. Still, I suppose he's just preventing those traditionally big spenders like Bournemouth from buying their way out of the league...

    I don't suppose he offered any opinion on how a controlling organisation can have rules in place that punish a club for going into administration and then punish them again the following year because their own CVA regulations are almost impossible to comply with (dual-penalty hitting 4 out of 4 clubs so far that have gone into admin)? It's nice to see they're finally trying to sort something out with HMRC though, it's only been a problem for 2 years now after all.

    Bringing the Championship closer to the prem is an admirable aim, but it seems Mawhinney is more focused on this than the most pressing problem which is the financial collapse of the system. He has no answer to when the next club will go to the wall? I'll help him out - it will be soon unless something is done to remediate the situation. Maybe Southampton, maybe the next club to hit difficulties, but we're getting closer all the time, particularly when the credit crunch means less investors to bail clubs out. Administration penalties are a necessity, but there need to be policies in place to help clubs before this happens (wage caps, squad limits, budget limits, spending linked to revenue and assistance programs when difficulties arise) and there's nothing right now - in fact the FL make it more difficult for clubs rather than assisting them. Clubs not wanting wage caps (particularly the Championship who obviously have a vested interest in wanting higher wages to attract Prem players) aren't an excuse, the football league need to be stronger and tackle this issue now.

  • Comment number 41.

    Personally I think that Brian is in a cushy sinecure with very little vision or passion for the future of English football. If he is the best 'leader' the football league has, we are in a very poor state.
    What I would want to hear is about the closer relationships with the Football Association and the develop of children and young players at grassroots. Holland - with a population similar to that of Wales - consistently produces more world class players than GB and EIRE put together. Perhaps the FA is Brian's next sinecure on the greasy pole, I don't know.

    I do find the league's rule defending players payoffs from administered clubs repugnant - being a Leeds fan I have seen 'high profile', ridiculously rich but patently crap players walk away with shedloads of cash while the little firm up the street who supplies catering/marketing material goes to the wall with jobs lost.

    Oh and for the record, I hold no truck with clubs who go into administration complaining about huge point deductions and going pop.

    All but four of the League Chairman (backed by Bri)were Turkey's voting for Christmas when they supported the 25pt deduction of Leeds in 2007/08 08/09 seasons. For the record the four were Forest, Sheff Utd, Leicester & Bradford.

    They were voting for their own measley hides and a sell out crowd/pay day when Leeds come to their ground. In the process they were also voting for their destruction if they found themselves in the same boat as Leeds. Fortunately for us we have the commercial pull and fan base to recover - others such as Scarborough Town/Luton will not be as fortunate.

    Frankly these chairmen and fans which myiopically supported that decision deserve everything they get.










  • Comment number 42.

    yes!
    I want to watch a winning team
    http://www.nowgoal.com/30.shtml

  • Comment number 43.

    Regarding Post 5: Sussex_King_Canary
    I agree that the relegation and promotion aspects of the leagues need to change. Though I think your proposal would devalue the league and would in fact create split leagues - those always in the top half of premiership, the yo-yo clubs and the bottom half of the championship top of League 1 etc.
    A better way to involve more clubs and keep the quality would be the following:

    Premiership
    Bottom two relegated
    Next 4 into play-offs

    Championship
    Top two promoted
    Next 4 into play-offs

    Play-offs:
    a) Prem 18 v Prem 15 (Losers to next game, winners stay up)
    b) Prem 17 v Prem 16 (Losers to next game, winners stay up)

    c) Champ 3 v Champ 6 (Winners to next games, losers stay in champ)
    d) Champ 4 v Champ 5 (Winners to next games, losers stay in champ)

    Two 'final places' with the winners in the premiership

    a v c
    b v d

    This could mean that 4 championship teams are promoted and would keep the premiership interesting for the bottom half a bit longer.

    In this year it would have meant Bolton and below all playing for their survival on the last of the season, and that Newcastle could still escape!

    Of course there are other ways of conducting the play-offs, but I believe there should be more ways of bringing the bottom of the league into contention.

  • Comment number 44.

    The Premier League's vast fortunes aren't going to go away as greed increases amongst whoever their members are at the time but a few things to consider:
    1. Although the biggest clubs will probably always be in the top flight there is no god-given right for any of them to be a PL side - just look at Leeds, Charlton, Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle and Middlesbrough! Hopefully one day if the other so-called big clubs will be relegated.....which freshens up the league they exit and the league they enter.
    2. Keeping relegation/promotion between ALL divisions is vital for maintaining interest for as many clubs as possible, so a closed shop as Gartside suggests (whether it be a 20-team PL or a 36-team two-tier PL) is a definite no-no.
    3. Having Rangers and Celtic in the PL would not only badly affect the SPL and Scottish football in general but those 2 clubs would suffer from European exclusion as UEFA won't allow them to compete as "English" representatives PLUS what would happen if either club was relegated from the PL? It'd make a total mockery of this plan!
    4. The current league set-up in England works quite well as it is and regionalisation is not necessary in the professional game, the Conference North/South being the highest regionalised league which suits its own neeeds.
    5. What would be good is seeing the top clubs lose their byes in the early rounds of the cups as they get far too much of a helping hand at the moment anyway.

  • Comment number 45.

    'When I asked Mawhinney whether it is realistic that another could go the same way in the near future the 68-year-old admitted that he did not know. In the 20 or so minutes that the interview lasted it was the only question for which he did not have an answer.'

    I think he certainly had an answer for that question but in true Thatcherite style, when it comes to uncomfortable questions, he chose not to answer it. Of course more clubs will go to the wall, and some big ones too. Smaller clubs trying to keep up with players wage demands just can't compete. And to suggest TV money will keep clubs afloat is just fairyland. TV companies, it may surprise Mr Mawhinney to know, are not recession proof and there is every chance they will have to pull in their commitments, just as Setanta have this year. Any club spending on the potential of TV money is heading for disaster.
    Can't help thinking Mr Mawhinney's legacy will purely be having changed the 2nd Division into 'The Championship'. A cosmetic change which fooled no one.

  • Comment number 46.

    Fixture congestion is still an issue.
    24 teams in 1 league? Its crazy, especially for smaller squads.
    Here's my idea (mock it if you want):
    16 teams in the Premier divisions (4 down)
    18 teams in the Championship (10 down)
    20 teams in League 1 (14 down)
    20 teams in League 2 (18 down)
    20 teams in League 3 (New league - 18 from League 2, 2 from Conference)
    20 teams in the conference (2 up)

    It would be unpopular at first, but it would gain popularity over time: Winter breaks could be longer, and it would put less pressure on thin squads, e.g. Burnley, Aston Villa.

    Also, as a Newcastle fan, it would mean Sunderland got relegated, too. Everybody wins!

  • Comment number 47.

    * 1 teams in the Premier Division (4 down)

    Phil Gartside's idea is stupid. Mine's way better.

  • Comment number 48.

    *16 teams in P.D.
    My keyboard's breaking.

  • Comment number 49.

    The talk of prevention over cure, the whole gulf in finances between Premiership and the Championship is caused by the original breakaway, and now there is nothing that can be done to stop it, obviously it would be better if there was a joint TV package for all the leagues, because then it could be shared more fairly, that was the football leagues plan in the early 1990's but the greed of top flight clubs put a stop to that.

    To be honest I do like the idea of more relegation and promotion, at least to make the league more interesting, because at the moment the Premier League is so very predictable, personally I have lost my faith in it.

  • Comment number 50.

    Thanks for all you comments - and some very interesting ideas on promotion/relegation to/from the Premier League and Championship.
    I reckon that Sussex_King_Canary (comment 5) has got a little carried away - imagine trying to work out the last day permutations with so many promotion and relegation spots.

    Mawhinney clearly isn't the most popular individual for the numerous reasons that people have outlined. I wouldn't definitely agree with those who suggest he is not concerned with clubs going bust in the current financial climate. He proposed wage capping as a way of trying to encourage financial responsibility and wrote to all clubs some time ago outlining the need for sound financial management. I think that he would also argue, rightly or wrongly, that the Football League governs the actual competition and that, to a large extent, it is up to the individual clubs to run their affairs correctly.

  • Comment number 51.

    A shocking fact (revealed above); more Spectators watch the Coca Cola Championship than Italy's Serie A! WELL DONE ENGLAND! And tell your detractors - including clowns like Joseph Sepp Blatter and his puppet Michel Platini - to shut up and learn from what you have done!

    Money drives everything. And yes a lot that is written will help but the FA and Lord Brian Mawhinney are deaf to advice which comes from certain quarters.

    Blatter's Six-plus-Five will do nothing for Football. Blatter is wasting our time and money. He should resign and face the consequences of his dirty deals.

    FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT EQUALLY across England and EQUALLY across Europe is what will even the playing pitch. How? Simple, you create REAL COMPETITION and REAL COMPETITIONS! How?

    No. 1 / The UEFA Champions League Criteria should be changed to 'All European Clubs coming WITHIN 6 (Six) Points of the Champions Qualify!

    No. 2 / The Europa Cup Criteria Should be Changed to 'All European Clubs coming BETWEEN 7 (Seven) and 9 (Nine) Points of the Champion Qualify.

    Then, every Club wanting or needing to play in Europe must keep up with the Leader up to the end. IMAGINE THE COMPETITION AND QUALITY PLAYERS AND FOOTBALL THIS WILL CREATE!

    No. 3 / IMAGINE what your Lower Division Promotion scrambles will be like if similar Criteria is implemented!

    No. 4 / The 'Partnership' - All English (and European) Clubs will adopt a Partner from each of the Lower Divisions. The Premiership Clubs will impart knowledge, training techniques etc to their Partners.

    At Match 19 (halfway through the League), the Premiership Clubs will draw new Lower Division Partners with the same task.

    The Premiership Champion will be decided in the usual way.

    The PARTNERSHIP LEAGUE TABLE - The Points and Goals (for and against) ammased by the Premiership Club will be added to those from its 2 Sets of Partners throughout the Season and that will determine how much they can spend on Salaries, new Players etc etc.

    Taking nothing away from no one but you have Players from England and Great Britain (like Craig Bellamy for instance) running 'academies' in Africa but what are they doing for English Football? Now it is a TEAM EFFORT DEVELOPING FOOTBALL EQUALLY AND SUSTAINING THE DEVELOPMENT!

  • Comment number 52.

    It's sad to see a discussion about the Football League being taken over by a discussion about what's best for the Premiership. It's something us lower league fans are used to, but it would be nice for some football stories to not include the Top Four TM once in a while.

    Hopefully the Championship matches back on free TV next season will go some way to address this and renew interest in the lower divisions. ITV was woeful with its Sunday Morning Championship coverage, pretty much like it was when it had Premiership highlights and this season with the FA Cup.

    Is there any chance of a Match of the Day style programme being available for League One and League Two next season on the Red Button or IPlayer? If the goals are available on the BBC Website, surely an highlights package can be put together quite easily.

    I'd like to see much more lower league coverage on the BBC next season. The Championship has more people attend than the top league of almost every other country in the World, yet if there are no Premiership matches on an international weekend, we can't even get Final Score on BBC2 giving out League 1 and 2 results some weeks.

    There is a lot of interest in the lower leagues and fans of most sides pay a lot of attention to what others in their leagues are doing. We have a very strong structure at the moment. I just wish the media could notice this once in a while and give us a little more coverage as its something we are all desperate for.

  • Comment number 53.

    joe_scott01 at post #41 wrote:

    "What I would want to hear is about the closer relationships with the Football Association and the develop of children and young players at grassroots. Holland - with a population similar to that of Wales - consistently produces more world class players than GB and EIRE put together."

    By 'Holland' I assume you mean 'the Netherlands', which has a population of 16.5 million.
    Wales has a population of 3 million.
    Even if you were being crafty and you really did mean 'Holland', then its population of 6 million is still significantly more than that of Wales.

    Given that you've made one wild assertion which has just been shown to be incorrect, I'd like to challenge you on the second. Perhaps you would care to list the names of those players from Netherlands whom you consider to be world class? Then I'll see if I can think of the same number of world class players from the UK and Ireland. To keep the lists short, let's stick to current players.

    Or will you do the honourable thing and retract your wild claims?

  • Comment number 54.

    First time poster on this blog,

    On the theme of European places and changes to qualification criteria etc...and with the obvious gulf between the EPL and the FL.

    Would a cup competition excluding the teams from the EPL (maybe in place of the Johnstones Paint Trophy) with the prize being a place in the Europa Cup work?



  • Comment number 55.

    Someone suggested that there needs to be a salary cap based on income. I greatly disagree. There needs to be an absolute salary cap. One figure for each division, that no team in that division can exceed. Capping by income just allows teams at the top with larger stadiums to continue to dominate. Man Utd have the largest stadium in England in regular use, and so would have the biggest salary cap. The only way other clubs can compete is to jack up ticket prices considerably.

    If you want to cap salaries, everyone in a division needs to play by the same rules. No way are the bigger clubs going to agree to that, as players are highly unlikely to agree to reduced salaries in the interest of maintaining employment. Players in the top divisions are too greedy, and in the lower divisions are too busy trying to scratch out a living.

    Of course, unless capping becomes universally accepted in Europe, it will never work anyway. Players will just move to foreign clubs where there are no caps.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    I probably got a 'little' ;) .... carried away, but as i said, it was "off the top of my head", and the principle of it remians the same.

    I think the game is currently sufferring from comfort and greed at the highest level, and it is up to the football league, in my opinion, to further develop a competitive edge throughout all levels in the league. I think that allowing this comfort and complete stability to continue threatens the passion and spirit in the game, and we need to compete with this in order to sustain the essence of English Football, before we allow it to become little more than mildly entertaining as a game over here (don't get me wrong, i love the sport, it's just what it's all about in this country now that i'm not so sure of).

    I have known many people now that have just completely stopped following the game, because they find that it holds almost no surprises, or enjoyment, and as fans they did't find it as satisfying as it once was to support and back their team. The game really is starting to lose vital elements to it in this country, and i find this, as an example of whats to come, a frightening prospect.

    I will say that the proposed idea's from Leidens_SS seem more suitable unto what i'm trying to get at, and with that kind of attitude and approach we can develop the essence of the modern English game, and the passion and spirit behind it, into what it once was.

    Slowly incorporate these idea's into the game so we can adjust, and as a country we will benefit in the long term. But we really need to start doing this sooner rather than later.

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    Why would celtic and rangers want to move to a EPL as they would loose their Champions league places that they currently always get in the SPL with no guarantee that they will break in to the top 4 in EPL.
    Although it would mean that the current 3rd best scottish team would benifit as they would get the SPL place.

  • Comment number 60.

    We all know why Gartside wants a 2 tier premier league, Its because he's scared to death of HIS team getting relegated and suddenly having to cope wity 20 or 30 million less per season.
    Its an utterly selfish and single-minded suggestion and i can't believe his suggestion is still being banded around. It does worry me though. It will get the vote of clubs in a similar position to Bolton and it WILL destroy the lower leagues.

  • Comment number 61.

    The Football League currently operate three very competitive leagues in which the majority of teams play to a very good standard. Despite the influx of overseas players to the top tier of the English game, the FL still provides many talented youngsters and indeed managers and coaches to the Premier League. The problem is that currently, with a few exceptions, this intense competition and talent is not sold to the general public, who could be forgiven for believing that we only have one league worth television coverage. Albeit that the current coverage is stale and becoming boring across all TV channels. Same old presenters, same old format and frankly boring, the product being totally undersold.

    However by comparison the product 'Owned' and controlled by the FL is non-existent, lost in a television hinterland. We are currently in an age of television and a internet entertainment revolution, we have multi channels, FreeView, FreeSat and ever improving Broadband which by now should have been embraced by the FL, both to attract revenue and showcase their considerable product. Why they have not launched their own channel is quite beyond me, they have it within their power to be very successful in terms of subscriptions, the numbers do stack up, and advertising. They do not need SKY, BBC or ITV, they have the product so televise it themselves, sell it, home and abroad, make money ! The opportunity is there for a completely new TV format, one in which all FL fans could become involved and totally independent of the present broadcasters, who of course feather their own nest.

    In another life some thirty years ago and prior to retirement I was regarded as innovator within the game, sadly the FL was a handicap then and still is. Funding this concept would not be a problem, there is more than enough money in the game to get this concept of the ground. Will they do it ? of course not. Will the sixty plus Chairmen and Mawhinney show a little commercial common sense ? NO !

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    A few people have commented on the poor coverage of the FL. I'm sensing an opportunity to plug the BBC here. We will have 10 live games next season from the Football League - but perhaps more significantly every goal will be available to UK users on the website. People are working pretty hard at the moment to ensure this will be as user friendly and well presented as possible.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    We desperately need a wage cap & a transfer cap, and they should be a flat rate and not a percentage of turnover. A percentage of turnover would still mean that Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea etc can spend far more than anybody else. The maximum wage ensured that a) players stayed with clubs for years, if not their whole careers, because there was no financial incentive to constantly chop & change, and b) players were kept in touch with the 'working men' on the terrace. I'm not suggesting that players should be as badly paid, as they were under the maximum wage, but I actually think the big clubs are deliberately inflating wages & transfer fees to deny others teams the opportunity to compete. As such they are operating a cartel.

  • Comment number 66.

    I still think in terms of DIVSION 1,2 ETC when it comes to teams in the football league, yes I'm that old! Naming a division covers up or masks where they truly stand. I'm in the USA and explaining this to first time followers of soccer students to the game is annoying because just like children they ask "Why don't they call it DIV 1 etc.. so it makes no differance in names of leagues its the numercal standing. Why pull away from something that was beautifully set up in the first place (or should I say premiership place")Who joins me in this crusade to get the prem/champion.league1 ousted and a return to plain sailing logic.

  • Comment number 67.

    Very interesting but I don't buy it. A couple of seasons ago Newcastle United had 2 HOME matches between December and January in the league and that was not through postponements or free weekends due to International matches. A lot more thought should be given on midweek and holiday fixtures and the TV companies should also have to obey these rules. What made Setanta pick Newcastle v Portsmouth and Portsmouth v Sunderland as a Monday night game. Fair enough if its a cup match as these are additional to the fixture caldendar but the die hard supporters plan their away games weeks if not months in advance only for the travel arrangements to be thrown out the window. Care needs to be taken or football will lose a lot of fans through this.

  • Comment number 68.

    It makes me laugh to hear this clown talk as if he is running some highly organised machine. Professional football is ran by chimps and it is a miracle that the whole lot doesn't collapse.

  • Comment number 69.

    "More people watched the Championship last season than Italy's Serie A and attendances in the Football League topped 16m for the fifth successive season - a fact of which Mawhinney was rightly proud"

    I am so fed up of people throwing around this statement, which is grossly misleading.

    The average match attendance in Serie A last season was 25,324. (Source: ESPN). The average match attendance in the Championship was 17,887 in the same period (Source: Football League). The amount of people watching the Championship is actually quite a way short of the numbers watching Serie A.

    The Championship has 24 teams playing 46 games a season. Serie A has 20 teams playing 38 games a season. The Football League quotes the total numbers attending all games, knowing that they have more teams playing more games than any other football league in Europe. This is not a measure of more people watching games, it is simply reflecting that people are watching more games. The average attendance is a better indicator of how many people are going through the turnstiles every week.

    With that in mind, the Championship also falls short of the average attendance at games in French Ligue 1 (20,404)and the Dutch Eredivisie (19,761) (Source: ESPN). It is still the best supported second league in any country in Europe, but it is not the 4th or 5th best supported football competition in Europe, as it pretends to be.

 

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