Examining the Potential Gains of B Teams' Proposals for Top English Teams

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2014

In this image provided by The Football Association, FA Chairman Greg Dyke addresses the media at Millbank Tower, London, Wednesday Sept. 4, 2013. New Football Association chairman Greg Dyke complained that the Premier League he helped to establish in 1992 led to an influx of foreign players that was never foreseen, denying first-team opportunities to homegrown prospects. (AP Photo/Jan Kruger, The Football Association)
Jan Kruger/Associated Press

The introduction of a new league or division for B teams of Premier League and Championship clubs could be one step closer, after FA chairman Greg Dyke was reported to have drawn up plans to integrate the system in the future.

As per David Bond of BBC Sport, there are currently a number of ways in which this might be implemented, and there still remain question marks over such factors as the promotion of the B teams and how non-league sides would gain access to the divisions above them.

It's a balancing act, but it's one that needs to be struck to allow the progression of more talented youngsters who aren't getting enough quality, competitive football in the current structure of the youth game in England.


Loans vs. Stockpiling

It's often accused of top clubs in England that they sign a large number of young players, simply in the hope that one or two of them prove good enough to make the grade.

This can result in bloated youth squads, lots of players not getting regular game time and certainly lots of them not close to first-team football.

Tom Taiwo joined Chelsea's youth academy as a promising youngster but never had the opportunity to play senior football. He moved to Carlisle United and is now with Hibernian.
Tom Taiwo joined Chelsea's youth academy as a promising youngster but never had the opportunity to play senior football. He moved to Carlisle United and is now with Hibernian.Stu Forster/Getty Images

On the other hand, they do frequently get loans to lower-league clubs, gaining experience at that level before coming back to their parent clubs' academies. Youth football, however, even at Under-21 level, is not of a competitive enough standard to offer much benefit thereafter.

Getting the players regular game time in a comfortable environment—in other words, for the same team in a genuine league competition for a number of seasons—can significantly aid their progress, while loans would still be an option once the players reach a better level and could cope in, for example, the Championship rather than League One or Two.


Something Real to Fight for

For the players themselves, it would, of course, only be a benefit to be playing in front of bigger crowds more often, and with senior titles, relegation and points to play for rather than youth-team football where the emphasis is on progression rather than results.

Early opposition has come in the form of Alan Alger, a sponsorship manager for Conference level division sponsors Skrill, which would be knocked down one "level" of the league ladder system if the proposals came into effect.

I think it's a disgraceful proposal because it makes it very difficult for non-league clubs to feel part of the football pyramid. People all over the world look towards England and are envious of our pyramid and the way things work here. To insert a number of teams that aren't competitive and won't have a fan base just makes it very difficult.

His comments have reason, though do not necessarily have to ring true; several clubs' youth or reserve teams attract crowds for FA Youth Cup matches held in the main team's stadium, and if the games were week in, week out competitive ones against senior opposition, there's a good chance that fans would go and watch.

Fans in place to watch Monday night's FA Youth Cup final.
Fans in place to watch Monday night's FA Youth Cup final.Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Indeed, with the rising cost of Premier League football, watching Liverpool or Manchester United Under-23s on a weekly basis could easily become a "proving ground" for younger fans and families who were unable to go and see the senior side live.


Earlier Chances for Youngsters

Getting young footballers playing competitively earlier, thus increasing their chances of progression, is the basic mantra behind the idea.

Perhaps true, that remains to be seen, but they certainly will at least be more visible to everybody: opposition teams, fans, national scouts, the whole lot. It could mean quicker progression to the first-team level for a number, but perhaps more importantly, it might mean a chance to get back into the game quickly for an awful lot more if things don't go to plan with their clubs initially.

Having 20 (or 100) competitive league appearances after one (or three) seasons on a B team could make an awfully big difference for young players in trying to win a contract at a new club or indeed a loan deal at a team further up the pyramid.

The knock-on effect, of course, is that players further down the league system have an additional step to overcome before they can enjoy the same benefits.

In terms of Premier League clubs in particular, and their young players hoping to break through, it certainly seems as though the B team plan is one of the best ways forward to give them greater opportunities to prevail and prosper in the game.