Another nail was rammed into football’s coffin with the approval by the Football League of the highly controversial Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). The plan, endorsed by the sports’ governing body the Football Association (FA), will see the big business Premiership clubs benefit massively from the radical overhaul of the youth academies system at the expense of the struggling lower divisions.
At the end of October last year 46 of the 72 Football League clubs voted in favour of the EPPP at a highly charged meeting, under threats by the Premiership to withdraw its funding to the Football League if the scheme wasn’t approved. It highlights once again the disregard the FA has for lower league clubs and how football is being increasingly managed for the purposes of generating cash for its investors rather than maintaining a mass spectator sport for the benefit of the paying fans.
With the introduction of the tier system the highest ranking i.e. biggest financial clubs, will get the pick of any youth players in the country and priority choice of the new talent emerging, all at a fraction of the current cost. For example, Chelsea paid £1.5m to MK Dons for 14-year-old Oluwaseyi Ojo, under the new system they would be able to buy him for less than £150,000. At the other end of the scale the tier 4 academies will only be allowed to pick up previously failed youth players; the leftovers the Premiership doesn’t want. As Peterborough United director Barry Fry succinctly put it “The Premier League wants everything and they want it for nothing.” It is estimated that between 30-40 youth systems in the Football League will now be scrapped because of the change, leaving many clubs without any youth training facilities.
Fans angry at the move have set up 72 Unite a broad based campaign group dedicated to getting the decision of the FA reversed. As they declare: “In the current financial climate with the divide between rich and poor widening on a daily basis, Modern Football continues to be an exaggerated version of the overall global picture. The rich continue to get richer, while the poor suffer”.
They have already organised a mass five minute boycott of every Football League game adding their voice of dissent and motivating fans of all the current 72 football league clubs to campaign and take direct action against the legislation. They intend to escalate their action in the coming months.