It is not unusual for my feelings about football to oscillate between fear and hope. What is unusual this season is that most of the hope is related to my own club, Birmingham City, and the fear is about football in general. I came across a headline of an article recently that asked, “Football pyramid on the brink of collapse?” and that’s what I have been worrying about.
The Premier League was launched in September 1992 and the money from the Sky TV rights did not have to be shared with the clubs in the English Football League (EFL). People from the lower divisions and some League officials were against this breakaway. In his book The Beautiful Game, David Conn includes a quote from Gordon Taylor saying,
“The FA is trying to diminish the Football League and with it most of the professional clubs in this country. Its blueprint is a way for the leading clubs to seize virtually all the money, leaving the remaining clubs to wither and, for some, die.”
It feels as though the dying is starting to happen. Bury FC were expelled from the EFL and Macclesfield Town were wound-up. Other clubs will struggle without gate receipts. When giving evidence about the impact of coronavirus, EFL Chairman Rick Parry said it was “difficult to answer” how many might go out of business.
This makes me sad because I think of football clubs as community organisations and part of the glue that holds society together. I support my team because they are my team, not because they play the best football. I went and watched them play when they were in Division 3. I also think that the football pyramid helps to provide players for the top clubs and if there were fewer lower level teams then fewer talented players would be discovered. That’s why the idea that the pyramid might collapse worries me.