Competition structures · English league · European club competitions · Football administration · Sociology & community · World football

Football Administrators And Structures

Sepp Blatter blames rich clubs for being rich, and wealth for the domination of English clubs in this seasons Champions League. His solution? Quota on foreign players.

There seems to be a disconnect between the purported issue and the proposed solution, but then, Sepp Blatter has never been the most intelligent of football administrators.

My views on wealthy investors in football clubs and player quotas are set out in my two articles published in a local paper in July and August last year.

The free market works if those who administer the system understand it and adapt the system to make the most it. Skilful players (employees) should be free to play for the clubs (employers) that provide the best package (including salaries and bonuses) to secure their services. Clubs (businesses) should be free to decide how much they are prepared to pay to secure the services of skilful players, and should bear the consequences of their decision, be it success on the field or financial ruin. Club owners (shareholders) should be free to sell the club to investors (which potentially includes fans, provided they can raise the capital) at a mutually agreed price.

A major problem is that football administrators, especially Sepp Blatter and FIFA, have their own agenda. Amongst other things, I have little doubt that they are envious of the wealth pouring into the top levels of European football in general, and English football in particular.

UEFA’s Michel Platini may be misguided, but at least greed or lust for power do not appear significant motivations for him.

A proper solution would require a review of the way national, European and world football is structured, both in terms of the associations that administer football, and the way competitions are structured.

Sepp Blatter would never go so far, as it risks undermining his own power base.

There appears to be an inevitability about a split between FIFA and the leading European clubs (whether with or without UEFA).

There are parallels with events of the mid 1880s:

“In January, 1884, Preston North End played the London side, Upton Park, in the FA Cup. After the game Upton Park complained to the Football Association that Preston was a professional, rather than an amateur team. Major William Sudell, the secretary/manager of Preston North End admitted that his players were being paid but argued that this was common practice and did not breach regulations. However, the FA disagreed and expelled them from the competition.

It was well-known that Sudell improved the quality of the team by importing top players from other areas. This included several players from Scotland. As well as paying them money for playing for the team, Sudell also found them highly paid work in Preston.

Preston North End now joined forces with other clubs who were paying their players, such as Aston Villa and Sunderland. In October, 1884, these clubs threatened to form a break-away British Football Association. The Football Association responded by establishing a sub-committee, which included William Sudell, to look into this issue. On 20th July, 1885, the FA announced that it was “in the interests of Association Football, to legalise the employment of professional football players, but only under certain restrictions”. Clubs were allowed to pay players provided that they had either been born or had lived for two years within a six-mile radius of the ground.

Blackburn Rovers immediately registered as a professional club. Their accounts show that they spent a total of £615 on the payment of wages during the 1885-86 season. It was revealed that top players such as James Forrest and Joseph Lofthouse were being paid £1 a week.”

The risk of professional clubs splitting away from the Football Association was averted in 1885 by compromise. However, similar disagreements within rugby resulted in a split between union and league in 1895.

A compromise can only be reached when the various factions have sufficient common interest.

They does not appear to be a sufficiency of common ground when a significant difference between the factions is that one is rapidly acquiring wealth (the top European clubs), and the other wants to stop them (Sepp Blatter and FIFA).

Continuing from here, Keegan’s outburst has the Premier League’s Chief Executive defending the league and Keegan in trouble with the Newcastle United owner.

It appears to be of lesser significance that what Keegan said is largely true, albeit conveyed in Keegan’s often somewhat hysterical style of self-expression.

As I have said previously:

“Having top clubs competing in both their domestic league and in the Champions League increases the divide between the them and the rest of the league. The dominance of the top clubs is reinforced by having two significant sources of revenue, while the rest of the league only has only one (excluding domestic cup competitions).

There is no level playing field, and what is sport without a level playing field?”

A simple solution is to have the top European clubs leave their domestic leagues and play in a European league, not merely because they see it as lucrative (as the G14 might have wanted a couple of years ago, see also here) but because it would be good for the rest of the domestic league.

The top European clubs would have a level playing field at their level, and the top remaining domestic/regional clubs would have a level playing field at their level.

The Championship has shown that an exciting second tier can generate a lot of interest, and with increased interest comes the potential for greater revenue.

The only real issue in any such system is that there should continue to be relegation and promotion between the European league and the domestic/regional leagues (as all domestic leagues have between their first and second tiers). It is not difficult to envisage a simple structure that allows for this.

Unfortunately, football administrators lack the vision.

(Article first posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)


17 thoughts on “Football Administrators And Structures

  1. In reply to

    Earlier this season I suggested this European League idea on another thread.

    I agree that, logically, a European league is inevitable. Unfortunately, football administrators are not necessarily logical.

    For example, we have Richard Scudamore proposing a 39th league game to be played overseas! The Premier League abandoned the idea very quickly more so because of the bad reaction that the proposal received, rather than because good sense prevailed amongst its officials.

    In reply to

    How would you envisage a promotion/relegation system working? I ask this because once the big boys have got their own league they’re not going to be too favourable to the threat of being relegated back into their national league. I think they’ll want it to be a closed shop.

    I agree that a European league should not be an excuse for the top clubs to protect themselves from competition.

    Promotion and relegation between the Conference Premier on the one hand, and the Conference North and South on the other, or between the Conference North and South and the Southern, Northern Premier and Isthmian Leagues (or several such arrangements throughout non-league football) provide an example of how promotion and relegation can work between one top league and several second tier leagues.

    What I envisage is the UEFA Cup continuing as a competition for the top clubs from the domestic leagues (after the top European clubs have left to play in the European league). At the end of each season, the bottom two clubs in the European league are relegated back to their domestic leagues, while the two UEFA Cup finalists are promoted to the European league (and leave their domestic leagues), for the following season.

    For me, the pyramid is an essential concept. We look at the pyramid structure through the ranks of non-league football, but why shouldn’t we build a pyramid structure upwards too? Building upwards is the way to better competition, better standards, more investment, more excitement, more choice – all the things that professional football should be about. Better competition, better standards, more investment and more choice are also all things that the European Union claim to espouse.

    There are several other aspects in which English and European league football can and should be re-structured to get the best out of it.

    I first thought about these structures several ago, and worked out most of the details by the end of 2006, but I haven’t had the time or opportunity to set it out in any meaningful way for a broader audience or readership, or for the football authorities, to consider.

    I’ll get round to a more detailed post when I can.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

  2. In reply to

    I’m led to believe there was a lot of objection when the European Cup was first mooted back in the 1950’s with fans worried that it would diminish the importance of domestic football.

    It was actually the FA that opposed European club competitions as they felt it would detract and distract from domestic competitions.

    Chelsea qualified by winning the 1955 First Division in England. However the English Football Association would not let Chelsea take part because of concerns over fixture congestion. However the FA then provided the referee for the final leading many Chelsea fans to feel the club had been the subject of foul play.”

    Those officials would be turning in their graves now, with Manchester United withdrawing from the FA Cup in 1999-2000, and clubs regularly putting out weakened sides at the weekend in domestic competitions in order to preserve their best for a mid-week European game.

    In fact, Manchester United played in the European Cup in 1956-57 and 1957-58 against the will of the FA, and only through the strength of character of Matt Busby.

    However, the FA warned Manchester United that points would be deducted if they were late in returning from the overseas leg to fulfil their domestic fixture at the weekend. It was for that reason that Matt Busby pressed the pilot to take off from Munich in February 1958 despite adverse weather conditions, when ordinarily the flight would be cancelled. Apart from decimating a great Manchester United side, the Munich tragedy devastated the England team just months before the 1958 World Cup. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, I wrote about it here.

    There are other examples of the short-sightedness of the FA. For example, England did not take part in the 1930 World Cup as “England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were all ineligible, having withdrawn from Fifa because of a dispute over payments to amateur players”, and did not participate in the World Cup until 1950.

    In reply to

    … FIFA mustn’t allow the Glazers of this world to hijack it for their own greed.

    The Glazers are just one of several groups of businessmen looking to invest in football clubs. Investors seek a return on capital. That is the nature of capitalism and the free market. It is the greed of FIFA and Sepp Blatter we should be more concerned about. Their greed is disguised as being in the interests of football.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

  3. In reply to

    Playing devils advocate here. I don’t think there is a desire anywhere except unfortunately from the money-men and the TV companies for a European League. Compare the attendances in Champions League games – particularly at those clubs who realise after 2 or 3 group games that they are going nowhere – with those in their domestic leagues. It’s a pipedream that no fan I know aspires to.
    But anyway – let’s pretend it starts with the G14 plus a few wannabees. Pretty soon the top 3 or 4 contenders will establish themselves and the remainder will start doing things like putting out weakened Euroleague teams so that they can concentrate on their own domestic cup competition which they would feel they could win. Then the small matter of relegation – how can it be ensured that the Euroleague doesn’t end up being the Premiership for arguments sake – all the German,French,Spanish,Italian clubs potentially relegated within a few years and all replaced by the winners of whatever qualifying competition is organised who could potentiallly all come from the same country year upon year ?
    The clubs concerned in this have all got to this stage because they see themselves as winners. Regular winners of their domestic leagues or at worst, in contention for a prize. A 20-team Euroleague will have at least a dozen losers. And who wants to be a loser …………………….

    All valid points.

    The first issue is that most football fans have some life outside of football. If top domestic clubs are playing 34 to 38 domestic league games, at least 2 domestic cup games, and at least 6 European mini-league games, they will prioritise their time and finances, especially when money spent on football includes ticket prices and merchandising.

    Mini-leagues are of limited value. When a mini-league is concluded, the slate is wipe cleaned, so it is only a matter of whether the club finishes in the top 2 or not. Every mini-league has 2 strong teams and 2 weak teams, with the 2 strong teams more than likely to be the 2 teams that get through. Not exactly a formula for a lot of excitement.

    Further, as most football fans work for a living, having to choose, a football fan is more likely to give up a mid-week night game, than a game at the weekend.

    In all the circumstances, it is not surprising that the European mini-leagues do not engender as much interest as could otherwise be expected.

    If the clubs in the European league do not participate in their domestic leagues, and play their European fixtures at the weekend, the focus and importance shifts to the European league.

    Any domestic cup competition will be treated in the same way they are now, with the top clubs often putting out weakened teams.

    On the other hand, a 20 or 24 team division or league risks leaving too many clubs in mid-table with little or nothing to play for at the end of the season. There are solutions.

    Europe is a large place, with many major cities, which have large fan bases. I cannot see any 3 or 4 clubs dominating for long. All it would mean is that there would be several clubs based in other cities that are under-achieving, which need either an injection of funds and/or to re-organise themselves, for example on the youth or coaching fronts. You could expect at least one or two clubs from across Europe to be up to the challenge, knowing the potential rewards should they succeed in breaking into the top.

    And if the European league becomes dominated by clubs from one country, all it would mean is that the other countries need to revamp their domestic administrative, club or business structures. European football has been dominated at various times by clubs from Spain, Italy, Holland, Germany and England. Each time European football has been so dominated, another country has raised its standards, and soon taken over the mantle.

    It’s all in the structures. I believe the structures I have in mind address all these issues.

    Like I said, I will get round to putting up the structures I have in mind on this forum.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

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  5. In reply to

    One problem with your solution as I’ve said previously is that you’re approaching it from a Western European perspective and forgetting the fact that climactic reasons mean that it would result in the near permanent side lining of clubs from Northern and Eastern Europe. Those clubs can compete in UEFA competitions in sporadic games in the mid winter months (as Zenit have demonstrated!) but playing in a regular league which their domestic calendars would be forever out of sync with just wouldn’t be possible. I’m afraid that such a solution would only increase the gaps that already exist.

    To play in a European League, they’d have to be able to afford covered/heated stadia.

    The higher the stakes, the greater the investment that will be required. We’re already seeing it with several clubs, such as Chelsea, Real Madrid and Liverpool.

    If the top level of a pyramid with a fixed number of levels rises far more rapidly than the rest of the structure, the gaps between the levels will necessarily increase (as we are experiencing). If a pyramid structure is to be allowed to grow, the solution is to increase the number of steps/levels. It may be counter-productive to growth to try to reduce the gaps between pre-existing steps/levels.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

  6. In reply to

    In reply to

    I’ll get round to a more detailed post as soon as I can.

    I very much look forward to seeing it.

    Back in 1991, when the Football League and the Football Association were in disagreement on plans for the formation of the Premier League, I submitted a proposal to the Football League for the re-structuring of the Football League.

    I actually got a reply from the Football League. It was signed by the Secretary. Anyone know whose signature that is?

    The structure I have in mind has evolved significantly since then, although the basic tenets remain largely the same.

    Some of the themes are touched upon here.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

  7. In reply to

    Can we see the proposal you sent to the FL all those years ago?

    Well, the proposal was intended as an alternative to a breakaway Premier League, and is largely superseded by events, including the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

    In that there continued to be promotion and relegation between the Premier League and the Football League, the formation of the Premier League didn’t really change much in terms of league structure.

    The more important change was in the way it has allowed the top clubs to greatly strengthen their financial position, and thereby to secure the services of top players.

    The biggest weakness of the proposal in 1991 was that it did not sufficiently address the financial objectives of the top clubs (but then, I was probably too young and naive! ;)).

    Some of the structural concepts remain the same. You can find a flavour of these concepts here.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

  8. In reply to

    In reply to

    In reply to

    I think if there is a ‘need’ for play-offs to keep clubs involved, there are too many teams in the division. With four leagues of twenty-four and several below of twenty-two, play-offs must be included. But I hate the size of the leagues and the play-offs.

    How small would a league have to be to have more teams involved at the end of the season without play-offs? 16? 12? 10?

    And I don’t see the problem with the size of the leagues either. 22 seems a reasonable number – plus, reduce the number of teams in a league, you reduce the number of home games and thus the income that each club can generate – so I can’t see any reductions coming soon!

    Lovely, take the 72 league teams and the top 8 conference teams and arrange them in 8 leagues of 10, so each team plays each other home and away, twice each (40 games a season) and have a pyramid of 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-3-6 😉

    Premiership, Championship and League One to League Seven [;)]

    A league of 10 playing each other home and away is only 18 games a season.

    The Football League started in 1888 with 12 clubs. It was a leap forward from only having a handful of competitive matches in a season in the FA Cup (only one or two matches if a club was knocked out early) to having 22 guaranteed competitive matches in a season.

    For professional clubs, a fixed number of competitive matches guaranteed a certain level of revenue, which enabled them to budget for players’ wages.

    My proposal to the Football League in 1991 involved a top division of 16 clubs (playing 36 games a season), and 4 lower divisions of 20 clubs each (playing 44 games a season). The novel idea was in how to get the extra 6 games a season. The total number of clubs would increase from 92 to 96.

    I’ve taken the ideas along a fair bit since then, to include a European league and regional leagues.

    I’m still planning to put the current ideas up on this blog – it’s just a matter of finding the time.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

  9. In reply to


    On becoming president of UEFA, Michel Platini said he wanted to return competitiveness to European football. Sepp Blatter has said something similar (although how he fitted that to 6-5 is beyond me). The problem (simplified is as follows)


    I do not think much of Platini as UEFA President, and even less of Sepp Blatter as FIFA President.

    Between them, they may well bring about much upheaval in world football, not so much because of the changes they propose, but more so because of the reaction to their proposed changes.

    Upheaval in world football may not be such a bad thing.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

  10. In reply to

    Which is why I said “so each team plays each other home and away, twice each” – although this is actually only 36 games, not 40… Mind you, a league of 12 teams would be 44 games (home twice and away twice) so close to the current Football League levels.

    And continuing with the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of my previous post ;):

    This could easily be achieved by simply splitting each 20 or 24 team league in two:

    Prem 1 = 10 teams (36 games)
    Prem 2 = 10 teams
    Championship = 12 teams (44 games)
    Lge1 = 12 teams
    Lge2 = 12 teams
    Lge3 = 12 teams
    Lge4 = 12 teams
    Lge5 = 12 teams

    = 92 clubs

    2 up 2 down between each league – reduces the fallout from relegation, increases the number of meaningful games until later in the season, avoids play offs (or could be 1 up, 2 down and playoff between 2nd and 3rd for a 2nd promotion place)

    One slight difficulty (of many I’m sure) being the liklihood of everyone in Prem 1 qualifying for Europe or being relegated (in some cases both). Also, it would take much longer to climb from the basement division to the top flight. Also, teams in Prem 2 would miss out on potential money spinners with big teams (e.g. the current ‘big 4’ ) similar to arguments in restructuring Scottish football.

    Ok, I get you now.

    I think the tedium of clubs playing each other 4 times a season in the league (and perhaps once or twice more in cup competitions) is the main reason why the Scottish Premier League moved away from it.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

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