21 May 2014

League Three: Mad, bad and destroying a football club near you

Tweedledum and, erm, Tweedledum 
Greg Dyke’s suggested plans to allow Premier League B teams to compete in Leagues One, Two and a newly-formed League Three have been divisive.  

Divisive in the sense that on one side you have Greg Dyke and the critical thinker Danny Mills, who believe the plans to be a good idea, and on the other side you have every other sentient being in the entire universe, who do not.

Or at least I thought so until I came across this article by Patrick Vieira who - steaming in to the issue with the same reckless abandon for consequence with which he used to tackle Roy Keane - is also in favour of the scheme.

Now, plenty of people much more articulate than me have pointed out the many flaws in Dyke’s masterplan, so I don’t wish to repeat them. But, as a lifelong Orient fan, there were two assertions in Vieira’s article that seemed to encapsulate the madness at the heart of the proposal.

“For the interests of football the objective is how you can help the England team to be better”

Is it? Is it really, Patrick? Are the "interests of football" really synonymous with "the performance of the England team"? Probably not for the five million people who turn up to support their clubs each season, I'd suggest for starters. 

So in what way is it “in the interests of football” for the England team to be better? Is football in England so badly neglected that it needs the PR shot in the arm of a World Cup or Euro Championship win to encourage thousands of youngsters to take up a dying sport? 

I'm guessing the multitudes of wannabe Gerrards and Rooneys already dreaming of wearing a Franck Muller watch, buying a Ferrari Maranello and marrying a member of The Saturdays would probably think otherwise. 

Hardcore England fans
Now, don’t get me wrong, if England one day win a World Cup I’ll be there waving my flag along with all the armchair fans, glory-hunters and BNP voters that habitually make up the support of the national team at big tournaments. 

For me it'll be just as patriotically thrilling as Great Britain securing a figure skating gold at the Winter Olympics, or winning the Eurovision Song Contest.

But the idea that it’s worth destroying the integrity of the whole system of football in this country to achieve that - well, that’s not a price worth paying.

Because I for one would not sacrifice a single second of the wonderful season Leyton Orient are having right now in the vague hope that some alternative system might give an England team of the future a slightly improved chance of winning the World Cup.

In fact, I would not sacrifice a single second of Orient’s worst season ever - let’s call it 1994/95 for the sake of argument - for the same thing.

And that’s because as a football fan - and by that I mean someone who actually attends football matches - I know that every second of every single game matters. 
And Dyke’s plan to allow Premier B League teams to play in the Football League will render all competitive football beneath the Championship effectively meaningless. Really. Which brings me on to Patrick’s second assertion…

“When we send young players on loan, they are going to clubs where the only focus is to win games.”
Ah, yes. Those silly, misguided managers of all the tinpot little clubs in the Football League. How quaintly naive of them to go out and try to win football matches rather than use their games as glorified training sessions for whichever Premier League players they happen to have on loan.

Greg Dyke's plans... as good as this
Patrick, let me remind you: the key fundamental principle of any team sport is that its participants are trying to beat (or at least not lose to) their opponents.

Without that it’s not sport: it’s just performance art. And a particularly shit version of performance art too - like the living statues in Covent Garden, for example, or jugglers.

And as soon as there is one single team in Leagues One, Two or Three whose objective is not to win matches, but to develop players, the entire foundation upon which the sport of football is built comes crashing down - much like a top flight loan player experiencing his first ever reducer from a lower league journeyman.

Leyton Orient missed out on automatic promotion by eight points this season. But what if Brentford, who took the spot above them, had gained eight of their points against Premier League B teams who in those particular games had chosen to experiment by asking all their players to kick only with their weaker foot, as a way of strengthening them?

An extreme and unlikely example, sure - but the point is those Premier League B teams are free to do whatever they hell they like apart from actually trying to win games. 
Which means every point gained or lost against them becomes meaningless, which makes the table meaningless, which makes promotion and relegation meaningless, which makes the entire league meaningless, which ultimately will make Leyton Orient, the club I've supported all my life, meaningless too.
So thanks Greg Dyke. Thanks Danny Mills. Thanks Patrick Vieira. I’m sure when England fluke a World Cup win in the year 2054 or something, you’ll all be celebrating. 

Let’s hope there’s a few football fans left to celebrate with you.


  1. Spot on. Great article very well said!!

  2. Fine words - and the added benefit of being right too. Doesn't affect me (yet) as a St Johnstone supporter in Scotland, but no doubt we'll follow whatever happens down south. This encroaching attitude - that the national good is paramount - has come from the Olympics where only sports that Britain has a chance of winning a medal are funded. It's all very worrying.

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