A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to shake-up English football’s lower leagues to include B teams from the country’s biggest clubs has been given an emphatic thumbs down by Burton Albion fans.
Many supporters have reacted in horror to the idea, which is part of an investigation headed by Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke into how to improve the fortunes of the England national team.
One angle that will be investigated is the possibility of allowing the youth sides to gain promotion into the Football League, which has received a decidedly prickly response from many club officials.
The idea is that youngsters from the game’s elite will get a better grounding plying their trade in competitive matches against 15-stone 30-somethings battling for promotion from the league’s bottom two tiers.
B teams competing in lower leagues is commonplace on the continent, and has been attributed to playing a major part in the success of national sides like Spain, who have won the last three major tournaments as England continually faltered.
But traditionalists have pointed to the fact that England’s lower divisions are arguably more competitive and well-attended than anywhere else in Europe and that these proposals provide a threat to that claim.
The most radical shake-up since the formation of the Premier League, it has been labelled, but in truth these proposals are on a completely different scale.
When the Premier League was born, the names of the leagues changed and the rich got richer - that’s it.
Gary Sweet, chief executive of newly-crowned Conference champions Luton Town, who will retake their place in the Football League after a five year absence, did not mince his words on the matter.
“These proposals would completely kill English football as we know it,” he said succinctly, and there is a similar feeling in Burton at a crucial time for the town’s club.
For the second successive season Burton Albion will attempt to reach uncharted territory by achieving promotion to the third tier of English football through the play-offs.
Critics feel these proposals could hamper the progress of Albion and teams of their size who are attempting to fight their way up the leagues.
Brewers chairman Ben Robinson offered a more reserved response than Luton’s chief executive, but agreed that he felt it was ‘not the right way to go’ to improve the England team.
Dennis Fletcher, from Winshill, who has followed Albion’s rise through the divisions from their very first match half a century ago, made his feelings on the idea clear.
He said: “It is the daftest idea I have ever heard. They already have reserve teams, why do they want to make it harder for the lower teams to progress?”
Liam Eaton, who plays for the club’s supporters’ side said: “The only possible benefit is a boost in ticket sales with people coming to watch the bigger teams. But apart from that, I can’t see any benefit to us.
“Clubs should be doing it the proper way, working their way up rightfully.”
Mr Eaton also questioned whether B teams would have the same competitive edge as their lower-league opponents.
He said: “Would certain results start to happen between clubs? Who would be able to play for these B teams. Would they get help from the full-side?.”
Mr Fletcher believes the idea will never get off the ground due to the widespread opposition that it would likely be faced with.
He said: “We pander too much to the major teams already. I don’t think it will happen. The rest of the Football League wouldn’t stand for it.”