Events of the last year have made me question whether English football can sustain four professional football leagues (five if you consider the fact that pretty much all of the National League is full-time as well).
Given the financial situation of many clubs beneath the Championship, you have to wonder whether it is viable to ‘get back to normal’ whenever fans are allowed back into stadiums.
Even without the Covid restrictions etc, the lower levels of English football are hardly cash-rich affairs with plentiful revenue streams and clubs turning a genuine, self-sufficient profit year in, year out.
Whilst not every single club down there is a Bury or a Macclesfield car-crash where the owner appears to have just run them into the ground, there are many clubs trying to run as efficiently as possible but still finding themselves in financial difficulties more often than not.
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Why is English football allowing this to happen and surely we are in danger of missing a unique opportunity to review the status quo and see if there is a better way of doing it?
It seems crazy that divisions three, four and five are still national given that there doesn’t appear to be enough money to go round.
Why not be brave and make all the clubs beneath the Championship semi-pro and the leagues start to spilt out regionally?
League One could remain a national division but semi-professional with League Two going North and South. That would in effect merge the National League with League Two and then the National Leagues North and South would just feed into those divisions.
But by clubs going part-time, you would hope that enables them to bring some kind of order to spiralling costs around wages.
It’s not the players’ fault that wages are going up and up but by making the game at that level part-time, you would be cutting down on the largest outgoing over a season.
It wouldn’t drive fans away – you would suspect that fans of Accrington Stanley are still going to turn out to support their local team if they are playing as part-timers in Leagues One or Two.
Yes, the players would need second jobs to be able to survive (you’d assume), but unless something is done can we guarantee that there won’t be more cases like Bury and Macclesfield but this time worse? Clubs run by people actually trying to do their best but unable to generate enough money to stay in business?
If the player is good enough, he is bound to get picked up by a higher-level side that would turn him full-pro. And there would need to be some kind of pre-agreed way of making sure the part-time club is looked after financially for letting that player move on given that the players would pretty much have freedom of movement.
Pyramids going regional works in other European countries – countries bigger and smaller than England.
Something needs to be done, so why not this?