The worst Premier League idea yet: B teams

B-Team Logo 2

A couple of years ago the Premier League strong armed the football league into accepting its proposed Elite Player Performance Plan. If you can’t recall the particulars it basically gave Premier Clubs greater freedom to hoover up young players from smaller clubs. It means any player showing a glimpse of potential is likely to end up on the books of one of the country’s largest clubs, joining huge first team squads before being farmed out on loan for three or four seasons to try and prove themselves. In other words, a massively accelerated version of the current trend, undermining the incentive for smaller clubs to invest in youth development. It means those smaller clubs are only likely to keep hold of the lesser talented players, while the best ones will be signed to a bigger, bloated fish as early as possible.

The logic behind this policy is that the big fat clubs know best. They have spent the most on shiny new academies, and players can’t develop unless they’re running on a tread mill wired up to computers like some sort of military experiment to create the ultimate weapon. Stability and a gradual introduction to first team football are no longer important factors, apparently. This probably sounds like sour grapes from the fan of a Football League club – which it is – but it seems Premier League expansion isn’t going to stop there. The FA are considering plans to introduce one of the worst ideas that European football has to be offer in the form of ‘B’ teams.

You may have noticed that many of the major clubs in Spain and Germany have ‘B’ teams competing in the lower divisions of their professional or semi-professional structure. This means clubs like Bayern Munich and Barcelona can run an entire second string set up for their younger players, giving them regular competitive football against real clubs with experienced pros, instead of academy fixtures played at training complexes.

It means they can blood their vast squads of first team hopefuls in a professional setup that they control, instead of packing them off on loan to various clubs in the lower leagues. This sounds great for the big clubs, and the FA no doubt hopes it means better long-term development of future England players (where have we heard that before?). However, for fans of lower league clubs, this proposal stinks. Competing against clubs of similar size and status is enjoyable because it has purpose – your club taking points at their expense. It is a competition, after all.

The Premier League would surely like the competitive challenge provided by the Football League and Conference in a way that it can control more directly. But, taking points off a glorified reserve team is as far removed from the romantic ideal of football as you can get. These ‘B’ teams will not really be competing with the established league sides they face – they will have a ceiling beyond which they cannot pass, so even if  they continuously win their division, they will not be promoted.  No one really cares about these ‘B’ teams – their home fans will be anoraks with nothing better to do, essentially the same people that used to attend reserve team matches when they were a thing.

One of the best things about football in England are the attendances in the lower professional and semi-professional tiers of the game. They are remarkable compared to most other countries. And, now the Premier League want to rip it all up because they’ve decided ‘B’ teams are the way forward. It’s much easier to destroy things than it is to build them, so you’d hope Greg Dyke and his Commission at the FA have second thoughts before rushing to accept the proposals they are currently considering.

However, it’s not like the FA has track record of getting things right, so we should probably assume that this is going to happen one way or another within the next five years. If the Premier League wants this to happen – it probably will, and press reports suggest they’re broadly in favour. Another limb hacked off the corpse of English football.

 

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6 Responses to The worst Premier League idea yet: B teams

  1. Matt Rowson says:

    I agree with much of your assessment, but not your diagnosis. I don’t see this as “fat clubs thinking they know best”. It’s fat clubs pursuing their own interests at the expense of smaller professional clubs… it’s not them knowing best, it’s them recognising that whether they know best or not they can impose this nauseating outcome under the veil of benefiting the England team.

    I don’t see that benefit, and wouldn’t care overly if I did. I’d like England to do well, but if it’s a choice between England winning the World Cup and Watford winning a throw-in in the first match of next season there’s no contest. I suspect that active supporters of most clubs feel the same way. Distorting and devaluing competition for the benefit of the few is perverse.

    • Michael says:

      Matt,
      I think we’re more in agreement than you think. The argument that the PL always uses – and has done since it was created – is that their reforms will benefit the England team. The real motive, as you say, is greater control over resources for PL clubs. My enjoyment from football comes from my club – I’d be disappointed if you took from this post that I rank the national team’s interests above all else! In any case I get more enjoyment from watching Italy than England.

  2. Matt – I always say I’d rather Reading win a throw in at 5-0 down in the last game of next season when already relegated than England winthe World Cup – well, almost.

  3. Damon says:

    Largely agree with the piece, though I’m slightly unsure if I’ve misinterpreted your a) headline (“The worst Premier League idea yet”) and b) the target of the piece (“now the Premier League want to rip it all up because they’ve decided ‘B’ teams are the way forward”). Either that or I’ve missed a nuance or some piece of PL input into this, which is possible, though as far as I’m aware there weren’t any PL reps on the FA Commission.

    This is an FA idea, not PL, and it may or may not suit all or any PL teams. Ire should be directed at the FA, solely, at this point, surely? Other than that, completely agree.

    • Michael says:

      No, you’re right, it is misleading – I wrote this when I heard a rumour the PL were pushing this idea. It’s clearly the FA’s idea and appears to have no support from anyone other than Greg and his mates. So, well done Greg.

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