English Football League cancels talks over 100-team plan for five divisions

Burnley
Burnley claimed the Football League Championship trophy in May

Plans for a shake-up of English football to create 100 teams in five divisions have been cancelled after talks between the English Football League and the Football Association broke down.

The EFL said in May it wanted to create an extra division and have 20 teams in each from 2019-20.

The plans required authorities to find additional weekends for league games.

The EFL says it has been told by the FA the plans are "no longer viable".

There are currently 72 teams in the EFL - 24 each in the Championship, League One and League Two - and the organisation said the move would tackle fixture congestion and boost the finances of its members.

The rescheduling would have involved moving FA Cup fixtures into midweek slots, but the EFL said the FA was no longer prepared to consider such a move following a new international broadcasting deal - reported to be worth £820m.

"If the weekend slots are not available, there is simply no way we can meet the financial conditions as outlined at the very outset," said EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey.

"The stance the FA has adopted has brought the discussions to a premature end, before fully understanding what the financial outcome from the creation of a new distribution model could be. "

However, the FA says it remains "fully committed" to working with EFL and the Premier League regarding the issue of fixture congestion.

An FA spokesman said: "This is why we are trialling the removal of sixth-round replays in the FA Cup this season and why we supported the EFL in consulting on its innovative ideas for reform. That commitment remains."

Harvey said the EFL would still welcome a change in the FA's position.

"We are, of course, open to re-engaging in what is a hugely important debate that was designed to help shape the future of football in this country," he added.

Why change the current system?

The EFL believed the move, which Harvey said had been backed in principle by the Premier League and the FA, would help:

  • Ensure more games were played on weekends and bank holidays;
  • Remove fixture congestion and clashes;
  • Help EFL clubs make more money;
  • Keep the play-off finals on the last weekend of the domestic season.

For the proposal to be approved they would have needed the backing of 65 EFL clubs (90%) at next year's annual general meeting.

Where were the extra teams going to come from?

Rangers and Celtic
In 2009, Premier League clubs voted to reject a proposal to bring Rangers and Celtic into the English top flight

Currently, the bottom two teams in League Two are relegated from the EFL to the National League, but the plans proposed scrapping those relegation spots in the 2018-19 season.

Six other clubs - in addition to the two clubs already promoted from the National League - would have then joined the EFL.

Scottish Premiership sides Celtic and Rangers have long been linked with moving into the English pyramid, although EFL clubs ruled out including non-English clubs and Premier League B teams earlier this year.

Would EFL clubs have lost revenue?

EFL clubs would have seen their number of league matches reduced from 46 to 38 per season.

Despite the potential of losing revenue from three fewer home matches, Harvey had asked the 72 clubs to take a "broader view of English football".

He also said long midweek trips across the country for fans would "in the main" disappear, but that Saturdays would become "more special and more important".

Reaction

Exeter City chairman Julian Tagg: "People were very uncomfortable with it, and as a result were watching very carefully and trying to understand the nuances and reasoning behind it.

"Many fans across the country didn't like the idea of change and I think that was the same with our club. I think there'll be a little bit of a sigh of relief.

"As you go down the pyramid the more you're reliant on your gate receipts, unless you have some kind of philanthropic chairman who's going to throw money in, which we don't."

Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley:"Delighted to see EFL 'Whole Game Solution' proposal shelved. It's not broken so leave it alone."

Shrewsbury Town chief executive Brian Caldwell: "From our point of view it's a relief that it's not going any further.

"We would have liked further information before we would have done anything fully, but from all the information we got it didn't make any sense to change it."