An update on the EFL's proposed 'Whole Game Solution'Whilst Exeter City FC has strongly opposed ‘The Whole Game Solution’ from the outset - with Club representative, Julian Tagg, speaking against it at the EFL conference in Portugal last June; the Club did support the proposed changes to the Checkatrade Trophy, being persuaded by the promised financial advantages, and the advantages outlined for Youth football in general and Youth football at Exeter City in particular, as it would help us achieve our goal of giving young players first team experience.
The fact that this was to be a one-year pilot, and because Richard Scudamore had rebutted the accusation that this would mean B teams by the back door saying, ‘it won't ever happen’ quashed fears and confirmed the vote in favour.
However, the detailed case for change as outlined in the ‘Whole game Solution’ remains unconvincing. City supporters, along with those from many other clubs, are vociferous in their condemnation of the proposed changes and potential wider outcomes for English football. The timetable allowed by the EFL does not allow for detailed consultation with our own supporters or with other Clubs, both of which are necessary to reach an informed and practical solution.
The exercise is to enable more opportunities to screen Premier League games on primetime, weekend TV and thus increase income for the PL and FA which should trickle down to lower league clubs. From past experience Exeter City Football Club has no confidence that this will happen.
To answer specific points:
There should be no additional teams or extra leagues. The pyramid works and increasing the number of leagues would make living the dream for non-league teams more difficult, if not impossible. The question assumes there WILL be additional teams, asking only which is the lesser of the two evils, this is not conducive to a proper, reasoned debate.
There should be none at EFL level. This would take away a huge attraction for many and destroy decades old rivalries and friendships.
Changes deemed necessary because of fixture congestion and the need for a winter break are not recognised by clubs at our level and are not desirable for either club or supporter. It could mean no matches on a playable weekend whilst others on winter Saturday's could be postponed, in fact this could cause fixture congestion, not solve it. The argument that a winter break would improve English performance is confounded by the recent success of the Welsh national team who came through the same youth system as their English counterparts.
In addition, midweek games are not financially sound for clubs such as ours. They do not generate as much income as Saturday games, away support is often minimal especially for games arranged at short notice, such as FA Cup games. Indeed, the proposal to play later rounds of the FA Cup midweek will have far reaching consequences. This will diminish our most senior English cup competition which captures the football imagination worldwide and which has provided financial salvation for many lower league clubs, including our own.
For all these reasons, and taking account of the forceful arguments from our own supporters, Exeter City Football Club will continue to oppose the proposed changes in the ‘Whole Game Solution’.
ECFC Supporters' Trust’s next Forum in November will listen to your views on this topic.