Often Partisan

B Teams

News broke yesterday of proposals to bring “B” teams into the English football structure to help improve the development of young footballers with the long-term aim of improving the national team. The idea would be similar to structures on the continent where “B” teams of major clubs play in lower leagues to give young players competitive action and the current proposal would be to insert them between League Two and the Conference.

Surprisingly, the report goes on to state that the Premier League favours a “beefed up” under-23 league similar to the College system in the US over the idea of putting B teams into the League pyramid. As one could imagine, Conference teams are not thrilled with the idea of it becoming harder for their members to be promoted to the Football Leagues and the idea of B teams has been met with strong criticism by various fan groups online.

I have to say that I think the idea of B teams is poor. I don’t believe for one second that they would help develop the national team at all; all I think it would do is allow the continued hoovering up of talent by the “big clubs” and create situations where teams like Manchester United and Chelsea would have squads of fifty-sixty players denying other teams the chance to develop talent. I think it is important for the strength of the game in this country that the pyramid and the chance for success for lower league teams is preserved and that feeder clubs is something we stay well away from.

That being said, I am broadly in step with the idea that we should look across the pond to how we develop youth players. I’m a fan of some American sports and I’ve seen first hand how it works at high school and college level. I know it may be heresy to say this but I think that the Americans have definitely got the right idea and it’s something we should implement.

My idea would be to take academies away completely from football clubs and instead have them incorporated into colleges and universities. While I think the work the Blues Academy do is great I’m aware that what they do is at the whim of owners who might decide that the Academy isn’t cost-effective enough or managers who might decide on differing ideas of what players to push forwards. I think for academies to be successful they need to be independent of football club ownership and to be run for themselves – and if they are tied into an academic establishment then the young players attending would be given a proper education as well should their football career fail.

I have seen in America how well followed these setups can be; at a high school basketball game I attended roughly 200 people followed their high school team to an away fixture some 100 miles away to support their team; the total crowd was in excess of 1000 – and that was just at what would be college level here. At university level, the level of spectatorship is huge – the largest stadium in America (and third biggest in the world) is the “Big House” or more properly known as the Michigan Stadium where the University of Michigan’s American Football team played to an average crowd in excess of 112,000 per game in 2011. While I don’t think British universities are anywhere near that level it is testament to how popular sport at that level can be and I think if done right it could be more competitive than allowing B teams into the football pyramid.

The most concerning thing is that when the FA looked into these proposals, they didn’t ask a single fan group for their thoughts – which to me shows the value the FA place on fan’s opinions. I will freely admit that my ideas might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m sure other people will have their own ideas that are equally as viable and as valid yet we are ignored because fans don’t seem to be seen as stakeholders in the game. It is yet another sign that the footballing authorities have lost touch with the common fan.

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8 Responses to “B Teams”

  • RichardM says:

    Worrying indeed. The FA is nothing but a poodle, the Premier League wears the trousers, we all know that – so if the Premier League want it to happen, it probably will unfortunately. Surely that’s the whole point of the loan system, to blood players from their bloated squads who otherwise wouldn’t get first team action, so this serves no purpose other than to increase the Premier League’s stranglehold on the game in the UK.
    You never know, there might be a positive spin to this, with the rest of the football league finally revolting against the overbearing dominance of the Premier League / big 6 on the running of football in this country, and resigning on mass and forming an independent league with wage caps – which is exactly what should happen for the good of the game in England.
    Sorry…I just heard the alarm clock ringing….

  • Paul Carter - Voice of Reason says:

    I would add a caveat to your idea Dan that the academies receive a %age pay off for any player they develop to whatever level pro rata

  • MK_Blue says:

    I like the idea of college/university level academies, but the issues i see are: by the time a player finishes university they are at their prime age career wise and could have already missed a massive opportunity to earn medals/honors at the professional level; academies as they stand now take kids on at such an early age, when does their football education begin under the new system? at college? which by then is too late to be professionally coached; how will the transfer of these college players work? the draft system? normal transfer fees, in which case certain “independent” universities will just become feeder institutions for large clubs, plus it wont stop the larger clubs paying for talent like they do already.

    The problem the current system has is that we need to get more English/British players playing regularly and in competitive action but EU law really prevents any form of quota system that will make any difference (loopholes etc)

    so the idea of B teams is the much less disruptive way of making this happen. I am by no means saying it’s the best way, just the easiest to implement.

    I personally would hate the idea we could eventually end up with a first team and B team in one league, or dominating the top 2 tiers of the game.

  • Andy says:

    As mentioned over on SHA ( http://www.smallheathalliance.com/read.php?1,1553699 )

    My solution to this is:
    – Close down all club run academies at under 18 level, clubs would be barred from holding player registrations of under 18s.
    – Transfer training and development responsibilities to County FA run academies funded by a levy on clubs.
    – The FA academies can then loan out players to clubs to get experience.
    – At the end of the training, players can be put into a pool, and an American style draft system can be put in place to distribute the graduates amongst the local affiliated clubs.
    – Any players not picked up at the county draft become free agents.

    As mentioned already on here, I think that the problem with an academic based system is that you risk retarding players development by 4 or 5 years, also UK universities do not have the sporting set up of their American counterparts and it would take many decades to build up a similar infrastructure.

  • mark says:

    nice piece Daniel..kro

  • DM says:

    I don’t think British ‘university’ academies would ever be as well supported as their American counterparts; US major league franchises are pretty thinly spread and the junior sides are essentially the local clubs for major towns and cities, hence the huge attendances.

    Also, I’m not sure how valuable the ‘education’ a lot of these players get is. Obviously some of them will be really bright, but most footballers – American and association – are honest about the fact they’re not really university material. Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, LSE, etc are hardly going to be developing a generation of Premier League footballer-astrophysicists (or footballer-philosophers in Joey Barton’s case). They’ll be attached to the old polys and get registered onto non-degree BTEC-style courses which might not be much help if the footy doesn’t work out for them.

    That said, I think the need for an independent academy system along American lines really does hit the nail on the head. I’m a big fan of Andy’s idea of doing it at a county level – though you might get some weird back-to-back promotion runs for sides that have ended up affiliated with a couple of different counties: e.g. if Redditch get included in the Birmingham & Warks and the Worcestershire draft, they might end up in the football league off the back of receiving a load of young players. Unless the draft would only be open to league/full time sides, and the rest would have to grab the unselected free agents?

  • Alan Watton says:

    I know that B teams in the League and conference is a bad idea. The reserves and A teams were kicked out of non league 40 years ago.
    I watched a B team match in Munich between Bayern and Stuttgart which was a league decider in Div 3 south. 6o spectators saw Munich take the title and not get promotion. The current system is as good as its gonna get. Publicity and sponsorship is lacking. 18 man squads in the first team means 3/4 of the senior squad are not available for reserve matches.

  • Roz says:

    The thing that needs to be remembered is that College Football generates income for universities, it also makes it a more attractive university for you to attend. There are only 7 home games a season, and the ticket prices are reasonable. The nearest NFL team is probably a 100 miles away, and its a franchise so it can move cities tomorrow depending on the owners whim. Colleges don’t move, NFL ticket prices are extortionate. FA academies would need to generate income, and with all the competition already out there, that is probably unworkable. If the big clubs want to give experience to there younger players, do as Chelsea have with Vitesse Arnhem. Loan them 6/7 ‘youth’ players a year. These players are playing in a competitive league, getting European Football experience, albeit in the Europa League, and just getting competitive games under there belt. Its been win win for both teams, as Arnhem have never been so successful. Sod this B league, all it will do is generate more income for the top clubs and disenfranchise supporters of so called smaller teams.


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