Steve Hollis departing & Villa’s First Football League AGM.

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An interesting story for various reasons is that Steve Hollis is reported to be in Portugal representing Aston Villa at the Football League AGM.

This meeting is interesting for a number of factors, namely that it will include debate of proposals to expand the lower leagues with an additional division, as well as the inclusion of Premier League ‘B’ teams.

Whilst the discussion has yet to be had, there are existing vocal opponents to these changes, amongst them Mark Catlin (Portsmouth’s Chief Executive) who opposed similar ideas in 2014.  

At the time Catlin cited personal experience of the Spanish model being considered as being in utter “disarray”, referencing both poor quality and low attendances beyond La Liga.

Indeed, the FA’s desire to dismantle the existing approach & replicate it with a Spanish model is intriguing given that the national sides successes have only been relatively recent.  

There is certainly something in this given that Spanish football is seriously lacking competition even within it’s top flight.  Beyond that, how many people follow lower league domestic football inside or outside Spain?

The prospect of 100 domestic teams spread over five Divisions would therefore require much debate, particularly as a prerequisite appears to be that Football League sides are no worse off as a result of any changes.

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The incentives to Football League fans and clubs have already been laid out by the FA:

– The importance of each individual fixture will increase;
– Reduced travel costs to four games which are often at a distance;
– Midweek travel for fans vastly reduced.
– Potential to reduce squad size;      
– Increased importance of reserve team football;
– Enhanced recovery time/match preparation.
– Increase in sale of season tickets due to reduction in midweek games;
– Increased profile on League One, Two & Three at different stages of the season;
– Statistically greater chance of promotion (and relegation);
– At least six new Clubs (30%) to play each season.
– No relegation out of the Football League in 2018/19;
– Different formats for the Football League Trophy available;
– Opportunity to standardise promotion/relegation. 

[Credit: Football-League.co.uk]

At first viewing, there are certainly “benefits” amongst the above that are both debatable and largely unpredictable.  An increased chance of relegation being one.  Equally there are obvious lures, notably the reduction of arduous midweek away fixtures for supporters and the costs associated with them.

It is expected that the Football League will discuss a counter offer to the FA’s suggestion of ‘B’ teams, with these sides permitted a possible extra qualifying or group stage entry to the Football League Trophy (Johnstones Paint Trophy).

With the demise of “reserve” football and valid questions about the quality of Under-21 competition, it’s fair to say that the debate is worthwhile, but not at the cost of making things worse.  The existing idea of offering £3 million as an “incentive” within the league misses the point entirely.

The Football League are also likely to remind the FA that the existing loan system works well for young players and lower league clubs alike.  If the introduction of ‘B’ sides into the lower professional divisions were permitted, the need to loan players would become immediately redundant.

Why would Manchester United send David Beckham to Preston if they had a ‘B’ team at the same level?

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In any event, any changes would not be formally voted upon until 2017, with anything ratified (by 90%) not taking effect until 2019.

The Football League AGM takes place on the 9th & 10th June 2016.

Hollis, who has performed diligently in his time at Villa, is widely expected to leave the club following the conclusion of the AGM as Tony Xia’s takeover is finalised.  

Hollis is one of few who have acted with any real integrity in recent times and there is perhaps some mileage in the notion that his services being retained would be beneficial to the incoming Directors as well as new boss Roberto Di Matteo.

Stranger things have happened.

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