Swindon AdvertiserSAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: B team plan is ri-Dyke-culous (From Swindon Advertiser)

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FA’s latest proposals threaten identity of the Football League

Swindon Advertiser: Greg Dyke announces his FA commission’s plans for the future of English football Greg Dyke announces his FA commission’s plans for the future of English football

TWO weeks on, the prospect of the Football Association’s League Three proposals actually coming to fruition still fills me with dread.

The recent FA commission’s report was designed in its own words to “start a very serious debate within football”. Through shock and awe tactics it’s succeeded in that aim but Greg Dyke and friends haven’t just leapt on the hustings in front of the football-loving public and announced a harmless ‘free carrots for schools’ policy, they’ve pulled out a knife and threatened to chop up everyone’s packed lunch.

While it must be noted that the 84-page document published earlier this month picks up on half-a-dozen alarming trends in the English game - the lack of homegrown scholars given the chance to progress and the bulk of non-EU imports that are filed at the back of the cabinet after a year being two cases in point - there are grand assumptions lining the commission’s analysis that flick aside the proud traditions of the lower leagues like dust off a doormat.

The notion of League Three makes a mockery of the identity of teams in the bottoms two tiers of the Football League and, to an even greater extent, the Conference.

The report suggests, in the sort of carefree matter reserved by an aristocrat for his staff, that “all Premier League clubs would have the choice of having a B team starting either in that division (League Three) or the Conference”. What sort of message does that send to non-league football? It’s a thousand middle fingers being waved at once at the likes of Gateshead, who recently took 5,000 fans to the play-off final at Wembley, and Bristol Rovers - a club with an average gate of 6,500 now preparing for life at the fifth level.

Ordinary clubs matter to ordinary people. Perhaps the men and women at the top of the sport are prone to forgetting that. From my own very personal experiences, developing a love for football didn’t come from watching England fail to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. For me, an obsession was started by Steve Finney, Wayne Allison, Shaun Taylor and Kevin Horlock and that title-winning team of 1995/96.

Small clubs have a huge part to play in nurturing passion for the sport, the sort of passion that encourages kids to become coaches and administrators in later life and makes sure grass roots football - where it all begins - can continue to function.

Forcing Premier League B teams into the Football League is devaluing an age-old brand with a loyal and passionate following. While the premise is admirable in the grandness of its design, the concept is disrespectful to the decades of hard work and loyalty shown by chairmen, players, owners and fans of the smaller clubs.

Trying to merge academy squads with long-standing institutions is like a maverick chef attempting a fusion of lamb shanks and ice cream - an unappetising, unattractive mess made from two delicious ingredients.

There are, of course, other ways.

The notion of B teams in itself is hardly novel. Once upon a time they were reserve sides, playing in competitive reserve leagues against other competitive reserves, all of whom were trying to prove themselves good enough to make the step up to the first team.

Now we call these teams development XIs.

They play friendlies as and when clubs can be bothered, have no real structure or overall guidance and do very little good other than providing a platform for trialists and players recovering from injury.

Instead of shoe-horning an entirely new division into a structure which is loved and cherished by all its members, why not establish a formal reserve league once more - mirror it to run concurrently with the Premier League and Championship, draft academy graduates together with fringe first-teamers, stick to overseas player quotas, encourage competition through relegations, promotions and cups and appoint a full-time coach (he can be English, too).

Stick it on a Saturday when the first team is away from home and you never know, ordinary local folk might just turn up to back their local club. More football for a football-hungry population to watch, more football for aspirational teenagers to play.

Of course, that model would only succeed with initiative and investment from the FA and commitment from the clubs. And the latter part of that is where English football falls down - we simply don’t believe in what we produce or, in some cases, we just don’t care.

The top teams in the Premier League need to be responsible and cooperative enough to work in tandem with the game’s governing bodies to give the kids a chance.

They’ve already manipulated the Football League’s production line, through the Elite Player Performance Plan, to the extent they can cherry-pick the best young footballers in the country out of smaller sides’ academies for a nominal fee, while the little guys have to fork out extra wonga to maintain glorified donor centres for the Premier League.

There is extraordinarily little benefit to sides on the bottoms rungs. They were hardly given the option to turn against it, either. If the lower leagues hadn’t agreed to it, the drip-down funding to League One and League Two would most likely have been substantially cut. Ordinary clubs were stung by a protection racket.

And now the top teams, seemingly unaccountable to Financial Fair Play guidelines, free to poke legal loopholes in non-EU work permit legislation and happy to flout authority guidelines like adolescents do a curfew, get to have it all their own way.

You want the best young players? No problem. You want to hoard your billions while clubs like Hereford rely on donation buckets to survive? Your call. You’d like to disassemble a 150-year-old structure so a uniquely talented English winger, who can’t get a place in a first-team squad stuffed with uninspiring Venezuelans, can get a 60-minute run out at Plainmoor? Absa-bloody-lutely.

The problem doesn’t start at the bottom of the Football League. Clubs like ours here in Swindon produce their own talent, encourage youngsters to play football and give them the opportunity to thrive. The problem starts right at the top.

Between them, the cabal of clubs at the summit of the game in England hold Tardisimal power (with apologies to Dr Who). A small selection of wealthy individuals and corporations have the ability to dictate the direction the sport heads in, in almost every single way.

Many of them handle that extreme power with minimal responsibility to the English game - the very same game this commission is trying to protect.

They employ managers who are happy to sign unqualified foreigners while ignoring homegrown stars of the future; they stick to strategies that favour panic buying over long-term development, their eyes led more by the countless millions of prize money and TV payments reserved for already uber-rich clubs; they choose to concentrate on the future of the football played in England, not English football.

Dyke’s report highlights every troubling aspect of the sport in this country but panders to the big boys once again.

It doesn’t go to any great lengths to criticise top level recruitment, it doesn’t question the extravagant frittering of money; it says what we all knew was a problem and then suggests a solution that would only make football fans fall further out of love with highest echelons of the sport.

The commission provided many good theories in their report.

League Three was definitely not one of them.

Comments (8)

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6:53am Thu 22 May 14

Scribblemilk says...

Without going into too much detail, I don't think a reserve league is the answer either, kids will just be playing kids. What is required is the young but talented kids from all over the country to be playing competitive football up their age bracket , and as and when they are ready first team football, that and only that will allow them to improve to a level that they will be knocking on the door of premier league first teams. Quotas on non english players is a dangerous game, as it will just lead to a weakening of the quality we see at the moment, would be better if the clubs slower bought less from abroad because they had cheaper talent coming through the english system, maybe.

It was interesting to read what Wenger thoughts were on the B teams, he was supportive of an idea of these 15-21 years olds playing more league football but was concerned on the way of implementing that, and more interestingly pointed to the fact that its the player development between 8-15 that is more crucial in player development. If that is the case then its not about what the premier league clubs are doing its about what all football clubs are doing with their players as the premier league can only hoover up players once they get to 15-16.

Maybe we need to look at cooking in the country first, we have the lowest number of qualified coaches in comparison to the big leagues, that surely is the first step, the premier league and FA would do well if they could dish some of that money they have out into the community and encourage and forster quality coaching at local and lower league clubs around the country, how to do that is the debate, and not an easy one. I do just wonder what the world would look like if half the clubs down the leagues had youth team structures like Crewe for example that were supported by just a little bit of that money from the premier league, I wonder what things would look like if the 15 and 16 years olds at our lower league clubs were allowed to blossom in their respective first teams up to the age of 20 before the premier league clubs could buy them, rather than seeing talented kids bought up at 15 and left in development leagues playing there own age. I don't know what the answer is but giving more money or power to the premier league isn't the answer, we need to focus and support the structures we have not dismantle them.
Without going into too much detail, I don't think a reserve league is the answer either, kids will just be playing kids. What is required is the young but talented kids from all over the country to be playing competitive football up their age bracket , and as and when they are ready first team football, that and only that will allow them to improve to a level that they will be knocking on the door of premier league first teams. Quotas on non english players is a dangerous game, as it will just lead to a weakening of the quality we see at the moment, would be better if the clubs slower bought less from abroad because they had cheaper talent coming through the english system, maybe. It was interesting to read what Wenger thoughts were on the B teams, he was supportive of an idea of these 15-21 years olds playing more league football but was concerned on the way of implementing that, and more interestingly pointed to the fact that its the player development between 8-15 that is more crucial in player development. If that is the case then its not about what the premier league clubs are doing its about what all football clubs are doing with their players as the premier league can only hoover up players once they get to 15-16. Maybe we need to look at cooking in the country first, we have the lowest number of qualified coaches in comparison to the big leagues, that surely is the first step, the premier league and FA would do well if they could dish some of that money they have out into the community and encourage and forster quality coaching at local and lower league clubs around the country, how to do that is the debate, and not an easy one. I do just wonder what the world would look like if half the clubs down the leagues had youth team structures like Crewe for example that were supported by just a little bit of that money from the premier league, I wonder what things would look like if the 15 and 16 years olds at our lower league clubs were allowed to blossom in their respective first teams up to the age of 20 before the premier league clubs could buy them, rather than seeing talented kids bought up at 15 and left in development leagues playing there own age. I don't know what the answer is but giving more money or power to the premier league isn't the answer, we need to focus and support the structures we have not dismantle them. Scribblemilk
  • Score: 1

8:20am Thu 22 May 14

umpcah says...

I think any senior football enthusiast would agree that " fings aint what they used to be " ! Too many foreign players over here ! Player remunerations through the roof ! Attendances down because of television coverage ! Admissions to league matches too expensive ! These are the comments voiced down at The Red Lion ! The clock needs putting back somehow but footie seems like a runaway train to me ! Roll on next season, by the way !
I think any senior football enthusiast would agree that " fings aint what they used to be " ! Too many foreign players over here ! Player remunerations through the roof ! Attendances down because of television coverage ! Admissions to league matches too expensive ! These are the comments voiced down at The Red Lion ! The clock needs putting back somehow but footie seems like a runaway train to me ! Roll on next season, by the way ! umpcah
  • Score: -1

9:37am Thu 22 May 14

Old-Stager, Hilperton says...

As I have stated before on this Forum - How on earth does this Egomaniac Greg Dyke manage to jump from one top position to another.
Amongst other top jobs he has controlled the BBC and attempted to change everything possible during his tenure there, simply to get the "Greg Dyke" brand in place.
I believe "Change for Change's Sake" is his motto and his guiding ambition, so that he is rembered by everyone in the future.
How on Earth did this man manage to get the top position in the Footballl Association ?
We already have a wonderful pyramid system from grass roots Football right up to the Premier League; so why change things Mr Dyke ?
In any case I think that most real Football Fans would always place more importance to their own favourite Football Team than the national England Team who only play a few games every year.
As I have stated before on this Forum - How on earth does this Egomaniac Greg Dyke manage to jump from one top position to another. Amongst other top jobs he has controlled the BBC and attempted to change everything possible during his tenure there, simply to get the "Greg Dyke" brand in place. I believe "Change for Change's Sake" is his motto and his guiding ambition, so that he is rembered by everyone in the future. How on Earth did this man manage to get the top position in the Footballl Association ? We already have a wonderful pyramid system from grass roots Football right up to the Premier League; so why change things Mr Dyke ? In any case I think that most real Football Fans would always place more importance to their own favourite Football Team than the national England Team who only play a few games every year. Old-Stager, Hilperton
  • Score: 1

4:29pm Thu 22 May 14

stokes_stfc says...

The fa have said and done a lot of ridiculous things before, but this b team league idea completely devalues the game for fans outside the premiership. I think Sam's article is great and hope the suits at the fa see some of the articles being written like this... (Not that it would make any difference I'm sure). I for one would much rather pay my money to see Swindon play the likes of Fleetwood or Burton Albion than see us play Hull city's b team!
The fa have said and done a lot of ridiculous things before, but this b team league idea completely devalues the game for fans outside the premiership. I think Sam's article is great and hope the suits at the fa see some of the articles being written like this... (Not that it would make any difference I'm sure). I for one would much rather pay my money to see Swindon play the likes of Fleetwood or Burton Albion than see us play Hull city's b team! stokes_stfc
  • Score: 0

4:32pm Thu 22 May 14

stokes_stfc says...

Old-Stager, Hilperton wrote:
As I have stated before on this Forum - How on earth does this Egomaniac Greg Dyke manage to jump from one top position to another.
Amongst other top jobs he has controlled the BBC and attempted to change everything possible during his tenure there, simply to get the "Greg Dyke" brand in place.
I believe "Change for Change's Sake" is his motto and his guiding ambition, so that he is rembered by everyone in the future.
How on Earth did this man manage to get the top position in the Footballl Association ?
We already have a wonderful pyramid system from grass roots Football right up to the Premier League; so why change things Mr Dyke ?
In any case I think that most real Football Fans would always place more importance to their own favourite Football Team than the national England Team who only play a few games every year.
I do support the national team when they play, but as you say, I'd much rather see town win the bloody Johnston's paint trophy than see England win the world cup!
[quote][p][bold]Old-Stager, Hilperton[/bold] wrote: As I have stated before on this Forum - How on earth does this Egomaniac Greg Dyke manage to jump from one top position to another. Amongst other top jobs he has controlled the BBC and attempted to change everything possible during his tenure there, simply to get the "Greg Dyke" brand in place. I believe "Change for Change's Sake" is his motto and his guiding ambition, so that he is rembered by everyone in the future. How on Earth did this man manage to get the top position in the Footballl Association ? We already have a wonderful pyramid system from grass roots Football right up to the Premier League; so why change things Mr Dyke ? In any case I think that most real Football Fans would always place more importance to their own favourite Football Team than the national England Team who only play a few games every year.[/p][/quote]I do support the national team when they play, but as you say, I'd much rather see town win the bloody Johnston's paint trophy than see England win the world cup! stokes_stfc
  • Score: 1

4:38pm Thu 22 May 14

Swindon1984 says...

It's a real puzzler - most can agree League 3 is a bad idea for the majority of clubs, but the alternatives are harder to come up with. I've said before, every club is guilty of passing over home grown talent because of the results based nature of football - risking unproven young players to give them a run out could be risking results. Fans won't like that (us included) - who'd want to be known as the sole club which really encourages young players coming through if the cost is relegation?

As I see it the prem has too much money and power, power which it doesn't use responsibly or in the best interests of the sport. And that's natural, they're not in the business of promoting football as a whole, only their particular brand. The FA should be the ones with the power but that's in the past.

Really what we need is reverting back to the pre-premiership days, when TV money was divided up between the 92 clubs rather than given only to the few, with the rest scraping for crumbs from the table. Get rid of parachute payments so clubs don't bankrupt themselves gambling on promotion - they'd be far less likely to if the safety net of millions to springboard them back up wasn't there. And let's see that money invested in youth football, serious investment, and maybe then we'll see some improvements in the quality and quantity of homegrown players.

Of course this is dependent on the FA having the power and the inclination to change things for the better, and the premiership relinquishing money and control. Not likely to happen then - really can't see how the gulf is going to get any smaller.
It's a real puzzler - most can agree League 3 is a bad idea for the majority of clubs, but the alternatives are harder to come up with. I've said before, every club is guilty of passing over home grown talent because of the results based nature of football - risking unproven young players to give them a run out could be risking results. Fans won't like that (us included) - who'd want to be known as the sole club which really encourages young players coming through if the cost is relegation? As I see it the prem has too much money and power, power which it doesn't use responsibly or in the best interests of the sport. And that's natural, they're not in the business of promoting football as a whole, only their particular brand. The FA should be the ones with the power but that's in the past. Really what we need is reverting back to the pre-premiership days, when TV money was divided up between the 92 clubs rather than given only to the few, with the rest scraping for crumbs from the table. Get rid of parachute payments so clubs don't bankrupt themselves gambling on promotion - they'd be far less likely to if the safety net of millions to springboard them back up wasn't there. And let's see that money invested in youth football, serious investment, and maybe then we'll see some improvements in the quality and quantity of homegrown players. Of course this is dependent on the FA having the power and the inclination to change things for the better, and the premiership relinquishing money and control. Not likely to happen then - really can't see how the gulf is going to get any smaller. Swindon1984
  • Score: 0

5:11pm Thu 22 May 14

Old-Stager, Hilperton says...

It seems that Greg Dyke was also the instigator of the Premier League in the first place, which in my view has caused the serious downfall for all other Non-Premier League Clubs in England.
In 1990 Greg Dyke was Managing Director of London Weekend Television and he initially aranged a meeting with representatives of the "Big-Five Clubs" to suggest that it would be more lucrative for London Weekend Television if only the larger clubs were featured on National T.V., and he wanted to know if the larger clubs were interested in a larger share of the Television Rights Money.
This eventually led to the breakaway Premier League.
It then makes you wonder what devious reason he had in mind when he later became Chairman of Brentford Football Club, and then jumped ship to become in control of the Football Association.
This man is totally unsuitable to be involved in any way with re-structuring the Football League System, and surely must be stopped at all costs.
It seems that Greg Dyke was also the instigator of the Premier League in the first place, which in my view has caused the serious downfall for all other Non-Premier League Clubs in England. In 1990 Greg Dyke was Managing Director of London Weekend Television and he initially aranged a meeting with representatives of the "Big-Five Clubs" to suggest that it would be more lucrative for London Weekend Television if only the larger clubs were featured on National T.V., and he wanted to know if the larger clubs were interested in a larger share of the Television Rights Money. This eventually led to the breakaway Premier League. It then makes you wonder what devious reason he had in mind when he later became Chairman of Brentford Football Club, and then jumped ship to become in control of the Football Association. This man is totally unsuitable to be involved in any way with re-structuring the Football League System, and surely must be stopped at all costs. Old-Stager, Hilperton
  • Score: 0

6:29pm Thu 22 May 14

Brainy_G93 says...

Can't we drop the subject now, it's starting to get boring.
Can't we drop the subject now, it's starting to get boring. Brainy_G93
  • Score: -4

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