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Reports of New Phoenix League Shocks League Clubs

By: The Fishy Team
Date: 24/11/2001

REPORTS today indicate that negotiations over a breakaway 'Phoenix League' are well advanced. In football's most startling turnaround since the announcement of the Premiership, the premier and football leagues have finally sounded the death knoll for small clubs in a bid to gain more riches.

  • The new League will be comprised of two divisions of 18 teams, made up of the existing Premiership clubs, Rangers & Celtic, and 14 of the bigger Nationwide League clubs.

  • The remaining Nationwide clubs would be left to find a new format for themselves .

  • Coventry, Wolves, Man City, Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford are reported to be already part of the plan with Notts Forest, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Norwich likely to be invited also and Huddersfield Stoke and Reading from the second division.

  • The new league will be a three up three down system, with only one club being automatically promoted. The new League would attract greater sponsorship and revenues, and reduce the number of matches big clubs have to play. Clubs left out, though, would have to find a way of adapting or face oblivion, and the Football League's reason for existence will come under question. Smaller clubs may have to become feeder clubs or revert to part-time status in some cases.

    Plans for the Phoenix League are already so far advanced that Coventry, Wolves, Manchester City, Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City - plan to serve notice that they are quitting the Football League on December 11.

    The proposals were prepared in consultation with Premier League chairman David Richards so at least we know where he stands. League chief executive Richard Scudamore is also reported to be at the forefront of the discussions discussions.

    A person described as a source within the group said: 'The odds are evens on the new set-up starting next season. If that doesn't happen, there's no doubt it's a certainty for the following year.'

    One of the complications would be the time needed for the Glasgow giants to withdraw from the Scottish Premier League. But it could begin without them if necessary until any legal hurdles are removed.

    The source added: 'Serious discussions have already taken place between the Football League clubs and the Premiership."

    'If certain obstacles can be cleared, we could be in a position to start the new League next season, which means first giving notice of our resignation from the Football League by the end of the year.'

    Another report states "Secret discussions have involved briefing most Premiership clubs, but when it comes to presenting the idea for rubber-stamping there could be a backlash from some of the big clubs if they feel they have been ambushed. However, the prospect should be so lucrative for all concerned that even they will find it hard to resist."

    There can be no doubt that this new deal will be welcomed by the TV companies who have already warned that the present deals will never be repeated, but may see this new setup as advantageous to both parties.

    The advent of Premiership Two is also the only realistic way that Celtic and Rangers could ever become part of the Premier League set-up with premier league chairman not wanting to allow them in the current premier league.

    The move is likely to be welcomed by Carlton and Granada, who own ITV's digital operation who will seize this opportunity to renegotiate their contract with the football league who appear to have sold the smaller clubs down the river.

    When the move eventuates, it will be for many supporters of smaller clubs like Grimsby's their worst nightmare come true. Surely the greatest thing about our professional game is that any club can be promoted through the leagues and survive on merit.

    Every supporter of every league team, no matter how small can always construct a case of how his team could attain promotion into the top flight and even survive there - it's every supporters dream. A lifelong passion for the game is fuelled by the thought that one day, just one day, we could join the big boys and maybe hold even our own.

    If that possibility was taken away from teams like Grimsby then for me much of what football offers the ordinary supporter of the ordinary club would be gone. Furthermore, Grimsby is so reviled and held with such contempt by the rest of the country, that I doubt we would be allowed into any "PhoenixLeague" no matter how good a ground we had (and yes we're supposed to begetting a new one - eventually).

    Why oh why have so many changes have been to our beloved game in the last few years? Since the arrival of Sky TV and the new money, everything is being tinkered with - from how we play, where we play, who we play, when we play and who can afford to watch it. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" is a phrase that comes to mind. One of these days the insane merry go round of football is going to spin out of control and come crashing down in our faces.

    What was our national sport is being warped and twisted by greed and hypocrisy to make piles of money for the new people who have entered the game over the years. I just hope football survives intact.

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