Club's stance on EFL decision explained
During an article in Saturday’s match programme, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson welcomed the decision by the EFL to abandon its plan to restructure English League football – at least in its present form.
For those supporters who may have missed it, Erik’s programme notes are republished in full below:
On Wednesday, the English Football League announced that it was to “end the Whole Game Solution since, in its current form, it is no longer viable”. The reason for ending discussions about this plan was stated to be the Football Association’s unwillingness to move FA Cup ties to midweek.
I’ve written on the subject of the Whole Game Solution before, but it is so important that I make no apology for doing so again. In their explanatory letter, the EFL said that the underlying requirement of the Whole Game Solution, as discussed in advance with the Premier League and the FA, was to create more weekend slots for league fixtures to generate additional, distributable revenue. I thought that was an interesting statement, so I went back to the original presentation that was made to clubs at the EFL’s AGM in June this year.
The introduction to the AGM presentation was a slide explaining that the EFL board was concerned about fixture congestion, that such congestion leads to scheduling problems, that those in turn lead to dissatisfaction, and from there to “problems”. As the basis for such a revolutionary proposal, that’s pretty vague. The presentation went on to propose expanding the EFL’s current three divisions of 24 teams to four divisions of 20 teams, a net addition of eight teams.
The immediate problem I had with the proposal was that I could never recall any League meeting at which a fellow club’s officials had complained that there were too many midweek fixtures. As a result, from the very beginning of this process it struck us that the proposal was being put forward not to solve an EFL problem, but to solve unspecified UEFA, Premier League and FA problems.
Following the AGM, clubs were asked to respond to the proposals, and at the end of August we did so, on behalf of the club and the Dons Trust. We said that the underlying reasons for the proposals had not been made clear and that the risks of not taking action had not been spelled out. We said that the 13 benefits in support of adopting the proposals that were presented at the AGM were “tenuous at best and simply ill-thought-out”. And we said that we believed that the issues being addressed by the proposals stemmed from UEFA, the Premier League and the FA, not from the EFL itself. After expressing concerns that the process wasn’t allowing enough time for full consultation, we ended by saying that we were dismayed that one result of the proposal would be that the importance of the FA Cup would be further diminished.
All in all, then, I think you can see that we did not support the Whole Game Solution, and you won’t be surprised that we welcome the end of discussions about it. But the announcement was subject to a caveat, as it referred to the end of discussion of the Whole Game Solution “in its current form”. So it seems that it will be back.
Now, that may be no bad thing, because a considered debate on issues facing the wider game would be a worthwhile exercise. But next time I do hope that there will be a lot more consultation before any proposals are launched, and that even greater efforts will be made to ensure that all EFL clubs are engaged in the debate. Given that these proposals would have changed the face of English football for ever, I was shocked and massively disappointed that only 42 of the 72 clubs submitted a response.
It hasn’t been a good 2016 for the EFL. The Whole Game Solution has collapsed, the League Cup won’t have a sponsor until next season, and the revamped Trophy competition is a shambles (as I pointed out on this page in Tuesday’s FA Cup programme).
The EFL board will need to dust itself down, take stock of where we are, and spend more time out among the clubs which it represents before bringing forward any new ideas. As always, our club and the Dons Trust want to be engaged in constructive discussions, but we must also always be ready to say when we think they’ve got it wrong. And in our opinion, the EFL’s proposals fell into that last category.