Competition structures · English clubs · English league · European football · Football administration

British League – An Outline

With the Premier League coyly raising the prospect of having two tiers to accommodate more clubs, I thought I’d outline what I think would be a more sensible British League pyramid.

Of course, it would make more sense as part of a broader re-organization of European club football to form a European League at the top of a greater pyramid, but there is only so much sense (if any) that the football establishment can take at any one time.

The outline of the British League –  two divisions, let’s say, Division A and Division B.   In the first season, they would be made up as follows:

  • Division A, 16 clubs – Top 12 from the English Premier League, the top two from the Scottish Premier League.  The next four from the EPL, the next two from the SPL and the top club from Wales and Northern Ireland (total 8 ) would play off to decide the last 2 places.
  • Division B, 20 clubs – The remaining 6 of the 8 clubs that played-off as above, the last two from the English Premier League, the top 8 of the Championship, and the next two from the SPL.  The next four from the Championship, the next two from the SPL and the second clubs from Wales and Northern Ireland (total 8 ) would play off to decide the last two places.

The English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland leagues (national leagues) would re-organise as follows:

  • English league – 4 divisions of 20 clubs.
  • Scottish league – 2 divisions of 20 clubs.
  • Welsh league – 1 division of 20 clubs.
  • Northern Ireland league – 1 division of 20 clubs.

The clubs would play each other home and away as is currently the case.  However, there will be an additional Divisional Cup.  Each division would be divided into 4 groups of 4 teams (for the British League Division A) or 5 groups of 4 teams (for the other divisions), playing each other home and away within each group.  Therefore, the total number of league matches played by clubs in each division would be:

  • British League Division A – 36 matches.
  • British League Division B, English League, Scottish League, Welsh League and Northern Ireland League – 44 matches.

The top 2 teams from each of the four groups in the BL Division A Divisional Cup would qualify for the quarterfinals.  They’d play home and away in a knock out competition up to a final.

The top teams and the three best second placed teams from each of the five groups for all other divisions would qualify for the quarterfinals of their respective Divisional Cups.  In each Divisional Cup, the clubs would play each other home and away in a knock out competition up to a final.

The top clubs in the British League Division A would qualify for Europe in accordance with the prevailing rules.  One place would be reserved for the Divisional Cup winners.

At the end of the season, subject to the following, the bottom three clubs of each division will be relegated, while the top 2 clubs and the Divisional Cup winners of the division below will be promoted.  The Divisional Cup effectively replaces the play-offs.  If the Divisional Cup winners are one of the top 2 clubs, the third placed club gets promoted as well.

Between the British League and the national leagues:

  • The bottom 5 clubs of the BL Division B will be relegated to the national leagues.
  • The top club in each of the four national leagues will be promoted to the British League Division B.  The Divisional Cup winners from the top division in each of the four national leagues would play off for the last promotion place.

Promotion and relegation between the bottom division of each national league and lower leagues would be in accordance with prevailing practices.

Every home nation would benefit from an integrated system as described above.   However, I expect the Football Associations of each to be too short-sighted and parochial to be able to see that.

The domestic cup competitions, such as the FA Cup, League Cup and Football League Trophy, can continue as they currently exist.


6 thoughts on “British League – An Outline

  1. In reply to

    No offence …, but I can see absolutely no value in that idea.
    For a start, the Welsh, Irish and probably even Scottish clubs would simply bounce between their national league and the British League second tier.
    To suggest that the top division of the English League should be treated on par with the other three is ludicrous. You’d simply be rewarding teams because of what part of the UK they are in. And how promoting a team who wins (effectively) a league cup is better than the play-offs – which only allow the top four teams into them – is beyond me.
    I could go on….

    On your first point, if you bear in mind that there could be up to 32 English clubs in such a two tier British League, Cardiff City and Swansea City have already proven you wrong. I expect so will Celtic and Rangers, and perhaps even a couple of other Scottish clubs.

    Clubs from Northern Ireland might take a while to prove you wrong, but the prospect of playing in a British League might see standards n Northern Ireland improve fairly quickly.

    If there is concern that “sub-standard” clubs from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would reach the second tier, a simple modification could resolve that – only two clubs relegated from the second tier. The top four clubs in the domestic league play-off against each other and only the winner is promoted. The runners up plays off against the winners of the play-off between the Divisional Cup winners.

    As for Divisional Cup winners being promoted, they’d have had to win a competition played over 12 to 14 matches, home and away, rather than merely finishing between third to sixth in a division and then winning a further couple of games.

    A format of mini-leagues followed by a knock out competition between the last 8 is not dissimilar to (and, with home and away matches, even tougher than) that used to decide World and European champions, and is not similar to the League Cup, where the competition is largely a simple knock-out competition.

    In my opinion, a lot fairer than the current play-off system, which is the point made in the original post of this thread.

  2. In reply to

    We’re going to have to disagree on this oneSmile

    Cardiff & Swansea haven’t exactly proved themselves as one of the (say) 40 top teams in the English system. Even without going through FCHD, I suspect they’ve spent as many years in the bottom two divisions as the top two. But it’s not Cardiff & Swansea that I’m really looking at, it’s the teams competing in the Welsh League. Basically it would be either Wrexham or Newport – neither of whom have exactly pulled up any trees in their leagues this year. Creating a bottle-neck by reducing promotion won’t cure the problem that, basically, the whole British pyramid would be massively unbalanced. While it’s more than possible that teams from NI and Wales could – given time – compete on par with the top 30 or so English sides, the idea that the next set of clubs down should be given status on par with clubs currently in the top half of the Championship is just plain wrong to me.

    With what I’m looking at, Cardiff and Swansea will have to accept that they are Welsh clubs. Under the original idea beyond the first couple of seasons, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are only guaranteed one club in the British League.

    With the modification, there is no guarantee in the longer term even.

    With the size of a country being such a big factor in the TV and other money financing football, clubs from smaller leagues will fall further and further behind. Look at how much Dutch clubs have declined on the European stage. Not really in keeping with EU principles is it.

    Like I said, it should be part of a broader re-organization of European club football.

    When given the opportunity, clubs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will make progress. Why else would Cardiff City. Swansea City, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport County insist on staying in the English system rather than join the Welsh league?

    The other objective underlying the proposal is to reduce the size of each division without reducing the number of games played. There is much more at stake, and as such, much more excitement, if fewer clubs can settle for mid-table mediocrity.

    1. In reply to

      I don’t think the size of the country has anything to do with it The decline of the Dutch clubs in CL terms has been mirrored in Germany, even with its absorbed Eastern neighbour and a large, comparatively wealthy TV market.

      Both countries are currently being out-performed by clubs from Ukraine – hardly small, admittedly, but with much fewer resources than the previously-mentioned pair.

      When the talk is about money and markets, the size of the country is important. Why else would Premier League clubs target China and India for their marketing efforts?

      The size of the country is a big factor, though not a primary or dominant factor.

  3. Comment posted on BBC Sport blogs:

    English football would be better off if its top clubs competed with other top European clubs in a European Super League. The big fish can compete with each other in the big pond, while the not so big fish can compete with each other in the not so big pond.

    At least you would have a level playing field in each pond.

    The important thing is to preserve promotion and relegation between the bigger ponds and the smaller ponds, and not have the big clubs simply breaking away to form their own stand-alone league. The longer it is left the way it is, the greater the risk of a break-away sometime in the future.

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