Football League propose five divisions of 20 in shake-up

Craig Hignett and Curtis Fleming
Craig Hignett and Curtis Fleming

The Football League has proposed the introduction of a fifth division in a radical shake-up of the English club game.

The governing body wants four divisions of 20 teams below the Premier League by the 2019/20 season.

With 24 teams currently in each Football League division, the plan raises the prospect of seven teams being relegated from the Championship in 2018/19 to allow for three to be promoted, while no clubs would drop out of League Two in that campaign.

Two teams would be promoted from the National League and six other sides would be added to the newly-formed League Three, taking the total number of professional clubs to 100. The six additional clubs are likely to also come from the National League, although the proposals will reopen the debate on Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers playing in England.

Football League clubs have been notified about the plan and will vote on the changes in June 2017. A 90 per cent approval rate, or 65 of the current 72 clubs, is required to get the go-ahead. Harvey says the plan, designed to alleviate fixture congestion by cutting down on midweek games, has the approval of the Premier League and the FA.

“The Football League has recognised that fixture congestion is one of the major issues facing the professional game in this country,” he said.

“We have seen a number of public spats this year in relation to scheduling and dealt privately with many others. The season only has a number of finite dates, and they are sought by all of us to try to get our games on at prime times.

“Fans and clubs have both suffered, in varying degrees, as a result of competition organisers having to move games to meet essential broadcasting requirements, increasing the move away from the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off time.

“Also midweek fixtures are often played at a distance and the crowds are usually well below the average.”

Should the proposal get the green light, Harvey also plans for discussions on implementing a winter break, scrapping FA Cup replays and moving entire rounds of the FA Cup to midweek slots.