The Football League has proposed introducing a fifth division as part of a revamp that would involve the biggest shake-up of the English game since the Premier League was founded in 1992.
Clubs are being asked to consider a reorganisation into five divisions of 20 teams from the start of the 2019-20 season, the Football League, which has 72 members, announced in a statement on its website (www.football-league.co.uk) on Thursday.
If adopted, it would mean the Football League becoming a four-division competition below the Premier League, including a new League Three, with 100 clubs in the professional game.
At present, the bottom two teams in League Two are relegated but under the proposal they would not go down at the end of the 2018-19 season. Instead, six more clubs would join the Football League as well as the two promoted from the National League.
The League said the proposal stemmed from English football’s concerns about the congested fixture list and the move enjoyed the support ‘in principle’ of the Premier League and FA.
The revamp, which would reduce fixture congestion by cutting the number of midweek games, was in a discussion document sent to clubs ahead of next month’s annual general meeting (AGM).
Ninety per cent of the 72 clubs must support the proposal, with a decision to be made at the League’s AGM next year.
“There are clear benefits for everyone,” Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey told the BBC. “It is about taking a step back to try to work out what is best for English football.
“We hope that the Football League taking this first step is the catalyst for future change.”
The biggest impact would be felt by the Football League clubs, whose games would be cut from 46 to 38 per season, but Harvey asked them to take a “broader view of English football”.
There was a negative reaction from the lower league clubs with Accrington Stanley owner Andrew Holt telling Sky Sports he could not see “any sense” in the proposals and Bradford City joint-chairman Mark Lawn calling the ideas “ridiculous”.
The League said the proposal would need ‘whole game’ support as concerns about fixture congestion were shared by the Premier League and the FA who wanted to boost the success of clubs in Europe and England’s national teams at all levels.
“These are interesting draft proposals and we look forward to further discussions over the coming months,” the FA said.