Football League proposes adding a ‘League Three’ to domestic league system

Leyton Orient fans, some in fancy dress on the final-day of the League Two season at Yeovil Town (pi

Leyton Orient fans, some in fancy dress on the final-day of the League Two season at Yeovil Town (pic: Simon O'Connor). - Credit: Archant

FA believes the Football League’s plans, which will see Leyton Orient involved, are “interesting draft proposals”

The Football League has distributed a discussion document to its member clubs, including Leyton Orient, ahead of its summer conference and AGM next month

Clubs are being asked to consider the re-organisation of the domestic league system into five divisions of 20 teams from the 2019/20 season.

Under the proposal, the Football League would become a four division competition below the Premier League, including a new League Three, with 100 clubs competing across the professional game.

In addition, the League Cup and League Trophy will be retained with the latter potentially having a revised format including a group structure of three games before becoming a knock-out competition thereafter.

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At this point, the Board of the Football League is offering no recommendation other than asking clubs to give the matter their full consideration, taking into account the following:

- Football League Clubs should be in a financially no worse, or preferably better, position as a result of any changes;

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- Promotion to/relegation from the Premier League must be retained at three places;

- There would be no relegation out of The Football League in season 2018/19;

- Football League Clubs must support the final proposal.

The proposal stems from English football’s collective concerns about the fixture calendar and enjoys the ‘in principle’ support of executives from the Premier League and FA.

The Premier League is due to take a report to their clubs at their summer meeting, while the FA Executive needs to consult with its board.

The congested fixture list remains one of the game’s biggest concerns with insufficient dates available in each season to sensibly accommodate both League and Cup fixtures without significant clashes.

The League’s proposal seeks to achieve a new, innovative approach to the fixture calendar and will need ‘whole game’ support as this concern is not unique to the Football League and is shared for differing reasons by both the Premier League and FA.

If implemented, the proposal would see the number of mid-week matches reduce from next season’s nine in the Championship, seven in League One and six in League Two to just one in the Championship, League Two and the new League Three and none in League One in 2019/20.

In considering these matters, the football authorities have identified the following objectives:

Football League Objectives:

- To maximise the number of weekend/Bank Holiday league fixtures;

- To remove where practical fixture congestion and scheduling conflicts;

- To protect/improve financial distributions/income generation for Football League clubs;

- To maintain the Football League play-off finals as the last event of the domestic season.

Premier League and FA Priorities:

Increasing the prospect of success for Clubs in European competitions;

Increasing the prospect of success for England Teams at all levels;

Retaining the value and status of the FA Cup Competition;

Avoiding a ‘problematic’ fixture clash with UEFA Competitions;

To achieve a fixture schedule where the FA Cup Final is played the week after the last round of Premier League fixtures.

The Football League believes there are any number of potential benefits for Football League clubs in reducing the number of fixtures, the importance of which will depend on a club’s individual circumstances.

In all circumstances clubs should not be disadvantaged by the proposed changes.

Benefits include but are not limited to:

- The importance of each individual fixture will increase;

- Reduced travel costs to four games which are often at a distance;

- Mid-week travel for fans vastly reduced.

- Potential to reduce squad size;

- Increased importance of reserve team football;

- Enhanced recovery time/match preparation.

- Increase in sale of season tickets due to reduction in midweek games;

- Increased profile on League One, Two & Three at different stages of the season;

- Statistically greater chance of promotion (and relegation);

- At least six new Clubs (30%) to play each season.

- No relegation out of the Football League in 2018/19;

- Different formats for the Football League Trophy available;

- Opportunity to standardise promotion/relegation.

Any final decisions on this proposal would not need to be made by Football League clubs until their AGM in June 2017 enabling full consultation with clubs and stakeholders, including fans.

The FA responded to the news with the following statement, it read: “We have said for some time that English football needs to look again at the congested fixture schedule for the benefit of all.

“As such, we have been discussing initial ideas with the Premier League and Football League. These are interesting draft proposals and we look forward to further discussions over the coming months.”

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