Football to follow Infantry example, and reorganise.

In an announcement from the Chief Executive of the Football Association, Mr. T.C.Hoon, it was announced that teams in the Premiership are to reorganise in one of the most wide-ranging structural changes ever to be carried out within professional football, by shrinking the numbers of footballers and supporters while increasing the number of games in domestic and foreign competition.

All London-based clubs are to merge to form a single large club, with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th XI; withe reserve teams making up 6th and 7th XI.

Some football clubs would be merged under the proposals. Some more would disappear.

Mr. Hoon insisted that this approach would offer "overwhelming advantages" without loss of identity, as the different XI might incorporate their historic names into new titles. While he said that a final decision had yet to be made, clubs with attendance problems were more likely to be disbanded.

But he insisted that historic names could be incorporated into the new ones, and that teams would still be recruiting supporters from the same areas.

"A lot of people are concerned about the identity of existing clubs," Mr Hoon said. "But I see no reason, for example - should the Scottish Football Association choose to recommend it - why in Scotland the existing team name shouldn't be bracketed after whatever title is given the Scottish division. For example, the 3rd XI (Hibernian), Scotland FC"

He insisted that by merging several clubs into large regionally based clubs, they would develop stronger ties to the local communities than under the current system. "We have carried out a careful consideration, bearing in mind hard statistics such as profitability, number of supporters, and success in European competition. While we are shrinking the number of football clubs and teams, we believe that these changes will result in more success on the world stage. Young Johnny is far more likely to turn out and support London FC 2nd XI than his father was to support Chelsea."

Mr. Hoon was also heard to bemoan the fact that in one club recently, only 9,000 of 41,000 season ticket holders travelled to support their team midweek in an away match. "It's not good enough that they are only willing to turn out to support home matches and Cup Finals - they should be glad to volunteer to support midweek away friendlies in Inverness, regardless of the effect on family and career."

"The Reinforcing Football Act of 1996 (RFA96) offers employment protection for those who lost their jobs because they were mobilised to provide travelling support at the other end of the country on a Wednesday. That is why we are doing nothing except looking on and letting them sort it out themselves with the industrial tribunal, rather than stepping in to actively help them."

A senior player was quoted in the Daily Telegraph of 30 August 2004: "There is no longer room among season ticket holders for bank managers such as the Capt Mainwaring character in Dad's Army who play supporter at weekends, but won't commit to deploying if it interferes with their jobs".

"Things have changed and the whole of the supporters' club now has to be a highly professional organisation," the senior player said. "If the proposals mean that the deadwood who dress up but do not deploy decide to leave, that will be a bonus."

The senior player would not comment on claims that attendances at home matches by season ticket holders had declined significantly since compulsory mobilisations happened, with some sections of the stadium now less than half full on a regular basis, and many season ticket holders claimed not to be renewing next season.
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