Often Partisan

B Teams (Part II)

The FA Commission launched its report into the state of the national game yesterday, recommending a new fifth tier of English football “League 3” to contain “B” teams of Premier League clubs to improve the amount of competitive action young English players get with the aim of improving the national team.

The report (which is viewable here) has been met with a predictable backlash from fans on social media. I covered the initial story on Wednesday but I wanted to look at it again as the full details are now out in the open and to comment on the furore surrounding it. I think the biggest reaction has been that despite the FA Commission saying that they had consulted 300 “stakeholders” in the game, there appeared to be very little input from fans. Supporters Direct complained in their statement last night that despite making two submissions no acknowledgement of receipt was received while the Football Supporters Federation also complains of a lack of fan involvement in their statement. The FSF submission to the commission can be viewed here.

I don’t want to go over old ground here but it strikes me straight away that despite saying that this is for the good of the national team, there are two parties who will benefit most – the “big” clubs and players – and these are the parties that are taking most from football as it is already. To me, the proposals will further entrench the stronghold the “big” clubs have over the game, allowing them to keep vastly inflated squads to the detriment of other teams and devalues the Football League pyramid. Supporters Direct retweeted a graphic yesterday showing that by aggregate admission, League One and League Two were the tenth and fifteenth respectively viewed leagues in Europe – with the subtext being that the introduction of “B” teams to the pyramid will cause issues with lower league teams being able to attract fans.

One thing I don’t think has been picked up is that this will also further entrench the power players hold in the game. If “big” clubs are able to maintain larger squads of young players for longer, that means a larger group of players will be able to gain contracts at those “big” clubs for a longer period. It seems to me that it’s protecting a group of people who will probably never make a big career in the game giving them an opportunity to earn more money out of it then their talent merits; for me the reason the national team is poor is because there is too many young players being held on to at the top for too long and yet they don’t get action because clubs play in games that mean so much financially it’s too much pressure on managers to rely on an 18-year-old kid.

Rather than inflate the number of young players at top clubs and increasing the level of mediocrity, we should be looking to limit the size of squads so only the very best will play and enforce rules against foreign players in the same manner as teams on the continent. If a young English player is good enough they will break through – Southampton have shown that this season as they have improved their Premier League standing based on players who have come through their academy while bringing more through.

I feel strongly about this and so I have two causes of action that may interest you. Firstly, I encourage you to sign this to help put political pressure on the FA to scrap the idea. Secondly, if you are more serious about wanting to help the game then think about attending the Supporters Summit 2014 where SD and the FSF are looking to put together a plan of action against the Commission’s plans. I attended the summit last year and I found it interesting and eye-opening when looking at the governance of the game and aim to attend again this year.

on a different note but also connected to the travails of football clubs and ownership, the website of my book is now live – take a look here.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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12 Responses to “B Teams (Part II)”

  • Paul Carter - Voice of Reason says:

    Online petitions ain’t worth a wink but your sentiments about fan involvement are spot on. Sadly football doesn’t place much value on fans however much lip service they pay to us. Also organised fan groups at Blues have never achieved much. Book looks good and I will definitely be buying a copy. Just wondering if there will be any new stuff that you haven’t made available online in the book? Is Will Smith Blues? Will the club be getting anything from the sales? And when is it out? Are you having a launch event?

  • Shirley Blue says:

    It’s a ridiculous idea. It will completely destroy the integrity of the pyramid structure of the League. I believe the average annual wage in League 2 is something like £50k while a young player at a top Premiership club will earn that in two weeks. How can a League 2 team compete against that? The B teams, in theory, should walk this new division with their comparable playing strengths. You would need to place them at the top of the Championship to even that up. The B teams will also attract minimal away supports which will impact the revenues of the actual league clubs.

  • mortonsblue says:

    Clubs could always organise an open age shadow league to develop players and run it alongside the main event, it could be called the Football Combination or something like that!
    I used to go and watch the reserve team along with a few hundred kids and other hardy souls, when the first team was playing too far away to travel (in my youth) and enjoyed it, saw such players as TF, Kenny Burns, Gary Pendrey, Joe Gallagher, etc. coming through the ranks.

    • Chris W says:

      I remember the reserve games too and the intermediate team that played at Elmdon. Many happy memories and a chance for the young supporter to interact with his/her heroes and vice versa. Sadly, today’s players don’t understand the supporter anymore.

      • Paul Carter - Voice of Reason says:

        Not just today’s player, other supporters don’t either

        • Chris W says:

          I agree, just goes to show the gulf that has grown within clubs between player and supporter.
          I remember going to the old Bingley hall and taking penalties at Bob Latchford, playing a Sunday football game at Elmdon and warming up with Dennis Thwaites, seeing Colin Green mowing his lawn and chatting to me and my mate, the players then were in the community. As I have mentioned before, Trevor Hockey giving me a lift home because it was late.
          I feel humbled and privileged to have been part of that era.

  • Paul Oakley says:

    You’d end up with the likes of Ravel Morrison and Lingard playing against Lincoln

  • Chris W says:

    Petition signed, and despite what people say about them I have found that given enough support they do carry some weight in influencing decisions.
    Regarding the supporters summit is it beneficial for the average Joe supporter attending, do they have a say for instance, or is it just listening to the big boys bragging about what they have done.
    Making squads made up from home grown national players has to be the long term aim, we have enjoyed some excellent world talent but at a cost of our own.

  • Chippy Blue says:

    It took Steve Claridge no more than 5 minutes to deconstruct this whole report in challenging Danny Mills (FA panel member) on 5 Live last night. Great striker and still one of few ex-players that can form and sustain an argument.

  • stu123456789 says:

    If they limited the amount of youngsters (not first team registered) that the big clubs could have on their books, the excess would join lower league teams and get regular football.
    The problem is the FA believe that only Premier League clubs are capable of training youngsters but in my opinion they would flourish more by getting regular competitive football

  • edd77 says:

    Soz off subject but is there any news on Neal eardleys injury?

  • Raymondo says:

    What the F A won’t ackknowledge is that the best way to improve the standard of promising English players is to limit the number of foreign players coming over to our Premier league clubs following the gravy train.

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