They are wrong!
What makes English football so special is, in fact, the supporters.
Before I get slated for it, I know that football is a British obsession not just English. However, for the purpose of this article, I am only discussing English football. The reason for this will become apparent as we progress.
For many a year now the Premier League has been losing sight of the fact that this is the game of the people. Sunday afternoon kick-offs, matches changed to suit TV coverage, Monday night games and extortionate admission prices all add to the woe of the humble supporter. There appears to be little consideration for your average man in the street when it comes to top flight football. The lower down the leagues you go, the more consideration is shown to supporters. This is probably because the smaller clubs, with less money, are still aware that they depend heavily upon people coming through their turnstiles week in, week out.
The passion for football in England is deeper than in any other country in my opinion. Yes, you could say that German crowds are consistently high in the Bundesliga. Spanish and Italian crowds are extremely vociferous and passionate in their own way. However, take a look a little lower down their respective leagues. In England there is a thriving pyramid, down to seven steps below League Two (or Division 4 as it should be known). This comprises over 1600 teams the majority of which represent small communities across the country. Nowhere in the world can match this pyramid system. It is the bedrock of English football.
The crowds at Step 7 may only be a tiny proportion of the Premier League crowds but each of these teams still has die-hard supporters who follow their team regardless of the weather, results or distances.
We should be proud of our pyramid system. We should cherish it and nourish it. More money should be fed down from the top levels of the game to ensure that these smaller clubs survive. No one is saying that a Step 7 team deserves millions of pounds. Many of them would not welcome millions of pounds. However, they would welcome a few quid to patch a hole in the changing room roof, buy a new match ball or mark out the pitch.
The point behind this is that, this is the foundation for football in England. If we destroy it then, eventually, the game will die completely.
If the FA allow the addition of B teams into the pyramid system then the demise of football will be greatly increased in my opinion. The option to create a new league between League Two and the Conference would spell utter disaster for any team below that level, even if promotion and relegation from that league was restricted. This proposal shows a complete lack of understanding of football in England and what actually makes it tick. Many of the teams below Step 2 of the pyramid already do not have realistic chances of progression but it is the hope and the potential that drives a lot of these clubs on. If the FA puts another barrier in their way, this time a barrier backed by the wealth of foreign investments, it could be the death knell for many a club.
As for the argument that B teams would allow competitive action for future English stars. Seriously? Manchester City B, Chelsea B, Arsenal B are going to pack their teams with English players. Don’t kid yourself. It will be a breeding ground for more young foreign imports brought in at an early age so that they can claim to be home grown by the time they make the first team.
If the FA truly wants to promote more English players in the game and give them competitive chances then they should find a way of restricting foreign imports into the top levels and encourage loan deals to the lower leagues.
B Teams may work in Spain, in Germany and in the Netherlands. However, none of these countries has the depth of club football that England possesses. Look below the Bundesliga, La Liga or the Eredivisie and see the crowds that provincial clubs attract. There is no active non-league system to kill off in these countries. We, in England, have a thriving non-league scene. The Southern League playoffs this season attracted over 7500 spectators to the 3 matches. The Ryman League got close to 5,000 for their 3 playoff finals. These levels of support are unheard of in other countries. We need to ensure that we keep this support going. Kids should be encouraged to watch their local sides, not go to see Arsenal B team or some other collection of imports.
These are just my opinions and I suspect that the FA, backed by the wealth and power of the Premier League, will steamroller over everything in it’s way, whatever the fans think. I do wonder what will happen come the day that the Premier League bubble bursts though. With everyday supporters being priced out of the game, will there be a future once the big corporates get bored and start to take clients to F1 or Rugby?
Food for thought Mr Dyke.