The League 3 Debate

Say No To League 3. It’s been a few weeks since Greg Dyke’s ludicrous proposals for B teams to be introduced into the Football League and I’m still yet to find a coherent argument as to why anyone wouldn’t be against them. As I see it, my football club must not be allowed to be another means for the clubs at English football’s top table to get richer. Nor must we be made tools who’s role is to exist to apparently improve England’s standing on the international stage.

Plenty has already been said about the ideas Dyke and his commission have put on the table. Has anyone yet found a way of validating the very idea that England will become a force in future World Cups thanks to experience gained at Meadow Lane and Roots Hall among others? It’s quite simply a ludicrous suggestion. A great number of players in the England u20 squad for this Summer’s Toulon Tournament have lower league experience, yet tonight I watched them toil to a 1-1 draw with Korea. Not sure expanding the Football League is going to offer much help if I’m honest!

Yet are the plans inevitable? Are we doomed to go down the League 3 road with our clubs hands truly tied behind their backs? Cast your minds back to the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan – if our clubs didn’t vote it in, then precious finances would have been withdrawn. The turkeys well and truly voted for Christmas. We the Football League clubs were set the task of producing the stars of tomorrow, who could then be cherry picked for a pittance from our academies by the big dogs. As if things weren’t against us enough – clubs in Leagues One & Two were allowed one vote, Premier League & Championship, THREE votes when it came to saying yes or not to EPPP.

Let’s not allow ourselves either to forget how the Championship becomes more of a Premier League B each year itself given the arrangement of Parachute Payments. How are we supposed to win? I understand the frustration of supporters who cry out for their clubs to stand firm – but top brass have our teams by the neck. It’s disgusting, saddening that things were allowed to get this way.

But such a voting structure is likely the scenario we’ll eventually face. And where will the majority of votes lie? Well, if interviews with top flight managers on the ever-repugnant Sky Sports News are anything to go by, it’s widespread support from them. Quelle surprise. Just in case the lower leagues aren’t happy to play along, it’s right there in the proposals – the trickle down of pennies will need to be renegotiated.

I’m not advocating that we throw in the towel and start coming to terms with the situation. More needs to be done to make our voices heard. A hashtag will go some of the way, flags at football grounds irrespective of the level of competition also, an online petition is already going great guns at drawing attention to the situation. We simply must not give up.

But have the Football League come up with a solution? Given the instant reaction of social media it appears not. But the idea of the Football League Trophy being revamped is one which I think deserves a bit more consideration, an idea that says rather than let B teams pollute our divisions as they are, bring them into a competition that – let’s be honest – only gets widespread support once Wembley is within sight.

The Johnstones Paint Trophy as it is currently labelled just isn’t important enough to clubs on the whole. How many clubs already use it merely as a reserve competition, an excuse to bring in fringe players for supposedly competitive action? Supporters are similarly ambivalent towards it. At Meadow Lane, games are greeted by the club housing it’s supporters in one stand. On our travels, we only took 102 fans down the road to Molineux for the second round at Wolves this season.

Now I’m against the idea of Notts County having to lock horns with anyone’s B team. But given the situation we face, it’s important that someone comes up with a viable alternative. People say they won’t go to games against another side’s second team – and I fully endorse the view point – but people scarcely attend Football League Trophy ties anyway. Why must supporters get so precious over a trophy most would usually otherwise view as irrelevant?

I genuinely fear for our game right now. I’m scared for what feels like the inevitability of League 3. But if the Football League are prepared to throw a tournament as expendable as the Football League Trophy under the bus to protect our leagues, then I’m happy someone at their offices has finally done something pro-active for our game.

Do I believe the giants of English football like West Brom or Southampton will go for the idea? Absolutely not. Throwing the JPT in the way of League 3 is likely akin to trying to put out a volcano with a wet wipe. But let’s at least appreciate that this is a start.

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