Football League proposes major overhaul

The English Football League, which operates the three divisions below the top-tier Premier League, has unveiled plans for a major overhaul of its structure that would lead to a fourth division being established.

Under the proposals, which must be backed by 90 per cent of the league’s 72 clubs in order for it to proceed, the Football League would operate four divisions of 20 teams each from the start of the 2019-20 campaign. The clubs will vote on the plans at the league’s annual general meeting in June 2017.

There are currently 24 teams in each of the Championship, League One and League Two, with all teams playing a total of 46 regular-season games. The new structure would reduce the fixture list to 38 matches per team.

The Premier League and the Football Association, which governs the sport in England, have backed the proposal “in principle.”

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey told BBC Sport that “there are clear benefits for everyone” although some clubs have expressed concern that fewer fixtures will bring less match-day income.

“It is about taking a step back to try to work out what is best for English football,” Harvey said. “We hope that the Football League taking this first step is the catalyst for future change.”

Harvey added that the Premier League and the FA support the idea in principle because “they can see potential benefits on an international basis.” He said: “The whole game needs to come together. It is about finding solutions that supports English football for the future.”

To implement the expanded league structure, the bottom two teams in League Two would not be relegated from the Football League to the National League at the end of the 2018-19 season. Six other clubs – in addition to the two clubs already promoted from the fifth-tier National League – would join the Football League.