Ian Lenagan the newly appointed chairman of the English Football League (EFL - formerly The Football League) gave the opening address at the Supporter Summit at Wembley on Saturday 16th July.
Lenagan is a business entrepreneur; theatre producer; shareholder of London Broncos and owner of Wigan Warriors and was a former director of Oxford United.
He covered three main issues:
1. The "whole game solution"
This is the title given to an approach to the problem of fixture congestion. The proliferation of European games meant that this problem had become worse as UEFA fines Leagues who allow games which clash with European fixtures. One approach which has been mooted is to restructure the English Football League into 4 divisions of 20 clubs. If this went ahead it would not happen before 2019/20 and promotion to The Premier League would remain at 3.
Lenagan stressed that the agreement of 90% of EFL clubs would be required before any restructuring could go ahead. That means that just 8 clubs in opposition would scupper it. He said that he was very aware that a number of lower League clubs were concerned about loss of revenue through playing fewer games. For this reason clubs had agreed that it would only go ahead if all clubs would be substantially better off as a result.
2. The EFL Trophy
This is the name given to the former Johnstones Paint Trophy. Lenagan described how attendances for JPT games had dropped 18% last season and income had dropped 15%. The competition needed reinvigoration and EFL clubs had agreed to allow Category One Academy teams to enter on a one year trial basis starting this season. Clubs had voted 15-6 (League 1) and 15-8 (League 2) to allow this trial.
The competition will feature 16 regionally based groups of 4, with each group including one Academy team. Although some larger clubs had declined to enter their Academy, Lenagan was confident that 16 Acadamies would be entered. To further foster youth development all teams must feature a minimum of 5 under 21s.
He acknowledged that no-one knew how this would play out and whether there would be any interest in watching your local team play an Academy team. However, he argued that there was every reason to try the experiment this season and stressed that, once again, a 90% majority would be required before the change could become permanent.
Trust Chair Steve Clarke asked whether there had been any consultation with supporters about this. Lenagan said there had been full consultation with clubs in the belief that clubs had rigorous consultation channels with their supporters.
3. Supporter Engagement
Lenagan outlined the EFL rule that all clubs must hold structured dialogue with a representative supporters group twice a season from now on. He stressed that these should be on strategic (not day-to-day) matters and that they should be attended by senior club officials and, ideally, the owner. He said the EFL view was that the participating supporters "must be representative". He also said that the EFL would issue a template of items for discussion but that this would be guidance only as all 72 clubs operated as independent businesses.