Below is a transcript of EFL Chairman Ian Lenagan’s speech at the opening of the 2016 Supporters Summit. Unfortunately the opening moments are missing from our audio recording. The transcript begins as Ian is talking about the Whole Game Solution.
Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the transcript however some parts may not be word perfect.
Lenagan: “The EFL has proposed the discussion. This is not a proposal to do it. This is a proposal to talk about it for 12 months. And at the end of it the odds are that it might not go through because you have to get a 90% majority of the EFL clubs. That means if 8 clubs vote against it out of 72 it will fail.
So you can imagine that’s a fairly major task. So I do make the point again, this is not a proposal from The EFL board to do this, to move to 4 divisions rather than 3 divisions. It is a discussion. It’s a proposal that we should have that discussion to see what the clubs think, what the National League think, what the Premier League think, what The FA think.
We’ve already before we put the proposals together had lots and lots of conversations with the FA and The Premier League, who have particular problems with fixture congestion. If you bring UEFA into that equation as well, we are currently in danger of being fined by UEFA because of putting games on at the same time on a Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday when there are European games taking place, but we have little option than to deal with that.
I don’t know if you recall during last season The FA Cup round where there was a draw, I think it was Man City against somebody, I’m not quite sure who the two of them were but it took 6 weeks for the replay to take place. Purely because it was impossible to find anywhere to place that fixture during that 6 week period during the fixture calendar. And the fixture calendar is getting worse and worse and worse as we move forward.
The whole question in terms of what we should do is obviously as important with The FA Cup as it is with the Premier League fixtures, as it is with The EFL fixtures and we’ve just gone on the initiative to actually put it forward. The proposal was actually first debated in March of this year at a strategic away day of The EFL board, at that time The Football League board, and the proposals were worked up following very detailed conversation with The Premier League and with The FA.
Martin Glenn, the new chief executive of The FA, while he’s had a difficult time over the last EURO four weeks or so, is a very capable man who comes from industry, from the retail sector who has brought a refreshing change as the first executive for a long long while of The FA. Obviously Richard Scudamore from a Premier League viewpoint and Shaun Harvey speaking on behalf of The EFL have put these proposals for discussion together.
There are certain elements and parts of it that are pre-conditions. So for example in terms of the Whole Game Solution, if it starts at all, will start in 2019/2020. The EFL clubs have determined that they can not be any worse off and there’s a threat that they could be worse off if you lose four home fixtures. If you reduce from 23, sorry to 24 clubs from 20 clubs, you obviously lose home fixtures. So there’s got to be additional ways to compensate for that. And the clubs have decided that they will need to be at least financially better off.
Secondly, promotion and relegation between the Championship and The Premier League will stay always at three up three down. That will not change. As an interim arrangement if these proposals go through [and we] move from 72 clubs to 80 clubs, there will be no relegation in the last season, for what is currently League 2. So those two teams that would have gone down to The National League will be safe, which means 6 new teams have to come from somewhere, if you’re going to end up with a Whole Game Solution of 80 clubs.
And just to put it in perspective, a year ago, when the whole question of what many people called B-Teams that we prefer to call Cat One Academy Teams, when the whole issue of that came up there were many people, me included, that were very concerned that if the EFL Trophy, the old JPT Trophy, moved to allow the introduction of Cat One academies, B-Teams, whatever you want to call them into that competition, that that would be “the thin end of the wedge” in allowing those same levels of teams into the Football League.
The Football League Board at that time, made the decision a year ago to demonstrate that this is not “the thin end of the wedge” and that these two things are not connected at all. They made the decision that where previously it would have only needed 51% vote, ie 37 clubs out of 72 to allow new members 16 clubs, 8 new clubs, whatever it is, it would raise that from 51% to 90% – that’s a massive change, that means that 67 out of the 72 Football League clubs would need to agree that this is a proposal they want to take forward. And if there are only eight clubs that speak against it, then it will not occur in terms of eighty members of The EFL rather than 72.
There’s a big engagement process going on to discuss this. Yes we’re continuing with The FA and The Premier League but more particularly with The National Leagues, where are three meetings are intended to be held with them to talk about it because it will obviously affect them. But the discussion process has four elements in it.
It started in August of this year with the clubs having been presented and agreed that the discussion was worth having. November in the Divisional Meetings there will be the initial feedback from the clubs as to what they think when they’ve talked about it for three or four months. And it could kill it at that particular point in time. And the proposal under discussion will reach [a] conclusion and it goes no further. You then move on to February at the February divisional meetings of all 72 clubs. At which [point we will see] if there is a motivation to move forward for forming a proposal. That proposal [would] be put together by February, to be voted on in June at the EFL Annual Conference.
So it’s quite an obstacle course to get through before these proposals might become formal proposals to be put to the vote, in June of next year.
I mention that the clubs will make the final decision, that’s really the whole of the issue as far as the Whole Game Solution, to put some flesh on the bones.
If you move on to The EFL Trophy, the old Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, it’s significant that after 10 years, the sponsor withdrew. You may or may not be aware that the view from The Football League clubs particularly The EFL clubs, is that as far as The Trophy is concerned, you either want to go out in the First Round so you don’t have many fixtures, or else you want to get to the final.
Speaking as a director of Oxford United who got the Final next year, it is very beneficial to get to the Final because the vast majority of the money, the [inaudible] are at finals level. So there is a mixed view. In terms of the last couple of years, attendances are down by 18% particularly in the early rounds. Income from gate receipts is down by 15% – it’s tired, it needs a refresh of some description. Or else it might possibly not survive. And that might solve some fixture congestion issues. So the two things have some relative relationship in that respect.
But at the current moment it needs strong re invigoration and one of the reasons for inviting Category One Academy Teams to enter in to it, is that re invigoration. Do we know whether a League 2 club rather than play against an Academy Side of a Premier League or a Championship side or not? That answer is no we don’t currently. Opinions are moving around a large amount. But the clubs decided by a vote of 15-6 and 15-8 in favour that in League 1 and League 2 and the Championship because they’re not involved in the Trophy we’ll go along with whatever L1 + L2 decided. So it was a fairly strong majority to go forward with this one year trial and that is all it is: a one year trial.
The reasons behind it, re invigoration first of all. Secondly the whole player development question of young players, and within the rules of the EFL Trophy a minimum of 6 U21 players and 5 senior players. That’s the structure that will have to play in the competition.
What will that do? That will improve the opportunities for young players to play against men. To play competitive games which is to the benefit of the clubs themselves if you’re interested in home grown players coming through but it’s also to the benefit of England, as a team. And by God we need that benefit don’t we?
So those are two of the reasons that The EFL clubs decided it was worth a one year experiment, And that’s all it is, it is a one year experiment, That’s all it is, it is a one year experiment and it may get killed at the end of that one year because the full review that’s done, at the end of that process is when the decision will be taken.
It obviously 64 clubs, organised on a 16 groups of four, with at least at least one Championship, League 1 and League 2 club in each of those groups, and there various other details associated with it. There are 24 Category One Academy clubs from which we need to get 16, and next week will see the announcement on which of the 16 teams are going to be in The EFL Trophy. We’re waiting for one or two other things to happen but we have the 16 already, and it’s just a case of some of the others deciding, and it’s in a priority order of the 24 clubs that the invitations have been issued.
That’s the EFL Trophy issue.
So disabled supporters and accessibility: The EFL is committed to improving the experience of disabled Supporters. It’s a rather different situation between The EFL clubs and Premier League clubs. The Premier League clubs have got 90% of their capacity used for disabled supporters – where it’s less than 50%, 49% in fact as far as The EFL clubs are concerned. So we have a lot more proper capacity available. We’re also less well off than Premier League clubs. So in terms of the commitment forward, we’re not committing to meet the Accessible Stadium Guideline because we can’t afford to do all of those and we don’t believe there is a need for it because of the remaining 51% capacity.
We are on the other hand committed as EFL to improve the facilities and matchday experience, and Level Playing Field are working with us in complete conjunction in terms of the assessment that will be used. The EFL Trust are working with us, they’re putting £1.1m in for up to 20 EFL clubs to improve the disabled facilities.
We’re again doing a number of mystery visits to check on behalf of disabled supporters so that we can see where to spend the monies, that we’re committed to spending on improving the scenario. And we’re also producing during the early part of this season a disabled facilities guide to supporters, and the guidance document as far as the clubs are concerned
Those are the four main issues that I was here to speak about, to set the basic facts as far as you’re concerned. [I’m happy to answer questions] a variety of things, and I’d be delighted to hear them on behalf of The EFL.”