Will Proposed "Premier League B" Work?

Since the advent of the Elite Player Performance Plan there has been a concerted effort to try...

Since the advent of the Elite Player Performance Plan there has been a concerted effort to try and find the best environments to develop young players to come through the Football Clubs at the top level such as Chelsea. Since then every year there has been chances to the set up in the leagues at U18's and most importantly the U21's league, next year there are to be more changes with the league splitting into 2 and having relegation and promotion from the top league to the second tier and also the introduction this year of the U21's cup.

I will start this article off by saying that the number of changes that are always being made only highlights that a lot of thought is being put into the problem of bringing through the players between the ages of 18 and 23 and that is a good things because it is easy to just leave things as they are or just change something and leave it for year, but it is constantly being reviews which can only be good and leads us on the latest idea the Premier League have come up with.

Last week Premier League chief Richard Scudamore announced the current plan to aid the development of this crucial age bracket and that is the introduction of a "Premier League B". Before i go into the details of the new ideas firstly I will highlight what I think are the biggest obstacles to player development at that age. Ideally you want to have your developing players at your club with your coaches to get what you as a club feel is the right coaching and you need the games those players play to be at a high enough standard to test them and to aid their development.

What you have at the moment is a league that was formerly the Reserves league and now the U21's league that just does not have the level of competition necessary for that development and the only way at the moment to get that level of game is to go on loan in the Championship, League 1 or even to Europe which plenty of our players are currently doing. So the overriding idea is for there to be a games programme for players 18 - 23 that would mean the need for loans is no longer needed. Chelsea certainly do not not feel the league is good enough with 30 players currently out on loan and the ages of our U21's team around the 17/18/19 bracket rather the 20 or 21 year old players who are all out on loan.

With that in mind lets look at the Premier Leagues latest ideas for the new Premier League B which Scudamore hopes will bring about what i have talked about above:

Premier League B - Richard Scudamore believes that by calling the current league "Under 21's" instantly devalues the competition and does not engender the feel of a valuable league. Now this may or may not be true but it is certainly the less important of the points of the proposed new league.

Make it U23's - Not too sure the thinking behind this change and it would also allow for 4 older players but i guess they really want to encourage the clubs to keep players at their home until they can break through to the first team. Not too sure this change would have any impact on anything from the current set up personally.

Kick Off Times - Scudamore stated that the league would need proper kick off times. Currently games (certainly for Chelsea) tend to kick off at 7:05pm or an afternoon kick off on a rare occasion even if that is midweek. There was no elaboration as to what was meant by proper kick off times but you would think it would mean a weekend 3:00pm kick off, beneficial or not i doubt that but if it helps gets fans in attendance then it would be good.

Played at first team stadium - This would be something i am sure the clubs would be reluctant to do, certainly Chelsea only currently use Stamford Bridge for the minimum number of games and only because they have to. Obviously this is down to the wear and tear of the pitch. If the Premier League can apply this rule wholly then it would be good. The players play in proper stadiums - you can see when this does happen the game tends to be a better game, the players enjoy playing in the big stadiums - the fans would enjoy going along to the bridge at cheaper rates, although the few U21's and Youth Cup games that do get played at the bridge do not bear out the chance of a big capacity not coming close to half filling the bridge. 

What does need to be avoided is games played at training grounds behind closed doors and on pitches that are very poor quality, both of which have still been the case on many occasions this season at U21's level and does not help the development of the players. So yes playing at Stamford Bridge would be good but in the current format would still not provide the crowds and interest needed to make the league more desirable.

Global Broadcasting/Marketing - The Premier League would use their marketing "expertise" that they apply to the Premier League and use that to generate a league that is known globally which would also involve television deals. This would be difficult to do, interest in development football is something of a niche market and your average football fan has little interest in it and would not know if their club is involved in the UEFA Youth League for example and certainly would not know or care what the results were so generating that level of interest would be difficult to achieve. 

However should they be able to do that this is one aspect of the plan which has the potential to kick up the level drastically the profile of this new league although as I have said it will not be easy at all to market the league to the level needed but if there interest is there then more people will go to the games live and increase attendances and a big TV audience would improve the level of the games being played for sure.

Prize Money - The idea behind this one is obvious and the articles reporting this story have classed it as "substantial" prize money. Without knowing what substantial would mean it is hard to know if it would be enough of a carrot to tempt clubs to keep their better players at home rather than send them out on loan and push for a finish as high as they can in the league to get the prize money. Obviously the money would be more useful to some than others but if it was significant enough then it could tempt clubs to treat it more seriously. 

Currently the Premier League winners will earn around £100m and the bottom club around £60m, if say for example you went for say £10m for winners and £2m for bottom club just as a random example then i think that is worth clubs fighting for.

Obviously all of these things would increase the level on the current set up with some of the changes harder to implement than others and although some of them sound very promising i think it would be extremely difficult to implement them to the level they want or need especially with regards to the Stadia, Marketing and Prize Money. 

What they are trying to avoid is a serious discussion about the introduction of "B Teams" to the Football League setup but a discussion that personally i think is inevitable as it is a massive aid to player development as witnessed in other top European Countries such and Spain and Germany but is hugely resisted in this country. The aim at the moment is to come up with a league that is as close to having a B Team as they possibly can but personally I do not think they will be able to come up with something that will come close to the B Team format for player development and it is something that will have to be seriously discussed sooner or later.


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