Economic Theory explained by Football 20 – The Paradox of Choice


In 2004 American psychologist and Philadelphia Union fan Barry Schwartz published his book called The Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less where he argued that eliminating consumer choices was actually a good thing as it greatly reduced anxiety for consumers.

“Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well-being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, consumers today have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.“  Barry argued.  Whilst his text made references to consumers throughout the book, it is clear that deep down he was actually basing his research on the spiralling transfer market.

Schwartz espoused the concept of voluntary simplicity, where we only have a small number of choices in life and immediately you can see he is referring to the majority of Non-League football clubs, who simply do not have the resources to be able to pick and choose the players they want.  We often refer to this as Hobson’s Choice, named after the Oxford United Chairman who found himself with no candidates when he advertised for the manager’s role a few year’s ago.

The concept of the Transfer Window in the world-wide professional game was supposed to reduce the stress and burden on clubs but all that it has done is concentrate the wheeler-dealings into two small windows.  Clubs struggling in the first half of the season put all of their hopes in the January Transfer Window but are often frustrated by rising prices because the selling clubs know they are desperate based on their league position.  The Paradox of Choice is seen in full effect where there are often far too many options but too few genuine choices.  Unless a club is prepared they simply will not be able to see the wood for the trees.

Schwartz’ research found that when people are faced with having to choose one option, or player out of many desirable options, they will naturally consider the trade-offs mentally before making their decision and they will think in terms of the value of the missed opportunities rather than the value the potential choice will bring.

Every week Darren has to make a choice between putting a substitute keeper on the bench or an outfield player.  It has been over a year since we have needed to use a sub keeper, although those who saw the game at Canvey Island last year would have prayed we had on that day and it is therefore a fair decision to put five outfield players on the bench each week.  If we only had a squad of 16 players then he wouldn’t have to make that difficult decision – it’s not like he has to play everyone on the bench.  So perhaps the Paradox of Choice would make his job a little less stressful come match day.

Schwarz’s theory has been debunked by a number of further studies, suggesting the complete opposite, that more choices make people happier.  But if you knew the back story about his research you’d understand it was all about football anyway.

Decisions in nobody’s interest


Last Saturday Lewes looked to record their sixth consecutive league win.  These are heady times for us Rooks fans, with many of us never experiencing the crushing inevitability of snatching defeats from the jaws of victory, but coming into the game against Molesey we were top of the current form table over the last ten games, having won eight and drawn two.  Such form was unheard of but was down to a new spirit within the dressing room and players hitting form.  During that spell we have also scored goals for fun, twenty-three of them in the last ten games prior to Saturday.  Scoring goals, playing entertaining football, winning games – we were living the dream.

fullsizerender_2Saturday’s opponents, Molesey, had lost seven out of their eight away league games, scoring just twice in the defeats.  If I was a betting man then I may have put a pound on a home win.  Confidence has that effect on me – heck I’ve even been known to turn the heating on before the end of November at home.

But what you can never factor in is the weather.

The forecast for Saturday was for a storm to hit the South Coast in the evening, so bad that a yellow weather warning had been issued.  I’d flown in from Florida, landing at Gatwick at 11am with bright blue sunshine.  The pitch looked perfect and we looked forward to seeing some free-flowing football especially with the return of striker Jonté Smith to the Dripping Pan.

Lewes 2 Molesey 2 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 19th November 2016
Ten minutes in and whilst the rain had started to fall, it was no worse than what we would have expected at this time of year.  Charlie Coppola got the right side (for us) of the full-back and was hauled down.  Penalty.  Jamie Brotherton slotted home 1-0.  The only disappointment was having the golden goal at 9 minutes.

The rain started to get harder but still it wasn’t causing us many issues.  We were able to play the ball around on the floor and always looked like scoring again, the surprise being we had to wait until the 40th minute when Jonté Smith picked the ball up 40 yards out, twisted his marker inside out before slotting in to the far corner of the net.  2-0 at half-time.

img_1915As the teams came out for the second half there was concern in the stands and personally I felt that if the rain did not let up we would soon run into a situation where puddles would start appearing on the pitch and the game would be in doubt.  I’d hate to see the game abandoned, especially as we were on top and currently sitting in 5th place in the league, our highest position all season.

On the hour mark the puddles were very evident and the ball started to stick.  There was no way that the game would finish, with the rain continuing to fall.  Five minutes later Molesey scored, a great solo effort from Ashley Lodge.  The Rooks performance seemed to mirror the state of the playing surface – deteriorating quickly.

Seventy minutes gone and the Molesey bench started making serious noise to the officials that the game was becoming farcical.  I couldn’t agree more.  It was only a matter of time before the pitch got saturated to a point of unplayability.  Five minutes later Molesey equalised when Tom Windsor tapped into an empty net.

After the goal celebrations the referee consulted with his linesmen and called the captains together.  “Here we go” we thought, game off.  But he actually asked whether they wanted to continue to play to the end (discovered post match).  Both captains felt they could win the game, but surely that’s not a decision they should be asked to make.  Neither side would be the loser if it was abandoned – Molesey may have felt aggrieved they would have lost a point but would have probably fancied their chances against us again.

img_1917The rain continued to fall, the puddles started to join together to form a lake. Running with the ball became impossible (as the above picture from the awe-inspiring James Boyes shows), passing the ball became a lottery and trying to make any timely tackles was a recipe for disaster.  Whilst it was amusing to watch, the core elements of the game – skill, passing, movement – become secondary to trying to predict how the ball would move.  We had chances to win it, so did our opponents.

fullsizerenderWith 90 minutes played the referee inexplicably blew for time.  The second half had featured five substitutions, two goals, a caution and a few stoppages for the elements.  To add nothing on seemed quite bizarre but more so was the decision to continue to play it when there was the opportunity for the officials to call it a day.  It may seem a bit like sour grapes, especially as our loss was greater than the Molesey gain but few who watched that game could say the weather didn’t materially affect the match.  We often cry for common sense in the game and in this case I don’t think that principle was applied.

You win some, you lose some and some are simply determined by the elements.

The most competitive Premier League ever?


Now that we have another International break out-of-the-way, we can concentrate again on the runners and riders in the Premier League race.   For players, managers and fans alike, these enforced breaks spoil the momentum that has been building as not one team seems to be the front-runners, making it the most exciting Premier League since its inception back in 1992.  Few in the first months of the season would have looked much further than The Etihad for the potential winners, with Pep Guardiola’s revolution making a bet on Man City winning the title a very popular choice.

They won their first six Premier League games, ten in all competitions and looked unstoppable.  Then they seemed to suffer a reaction to the 3-3 draw at Celtic, resulting in a five game win-less streak which gave the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs an opportunity to close the gap.  Coming into this weekend’s fixtures, the top four are separated by just two points with City facing a tricky trip to Crystal Palace.

Compared to this time last season, City and Arsenal are one point worse off, Liverpool nine better and Chelsea the biggest improvers, being 14 points better.  Last season Leicester City and West Ham provided the additional challenge to the traditional teams, taking advantage of the transitional periods at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Anfield.  It is highly unlikely that we will see something similar this season.

City face a tough December, having to play Chelsea and Arsenal at home, whilst going to Anfield on New Year’s Eve.  Their home form has been the concern in the Premier League in the last month, dropping points against Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough, although the 3-1 win over Barcelona certainly put a few critics back in their box, temporarily.  Their only loss to date has been away at Sours last month.

City had sixteen players away on International duty this week, and if you believe stories emerging this week, Guardiola could soon have another as Lionel Messi, a player who has won every honour at a club level, seems intent on leaving the Nou Camp when his current contract expires in 18 months time.  Barca will not want him to leave for nothing and will know that City have the money to fund a deal.  Messi counts Guardiola as a mentor and someone who he respects highly, whilst fellow Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero is a close friend.  The press have obviously already put two and two together and assume this is a done deal.

For now, Guardiola’s focus will be on getting three points on Saturday, but he will surely have an eye on how he can strengthen his squad once the transfer window opens in January, and whether that may include a short hop across to Catalunya to seal the deal with Messi.

 

Our Road to Wembley is closed for another season


Last week I was criticised by a few people for not being happy enough after our fantastic win against Cray Wanderers, instead focusing on the erratic (and incorrect) decisions of the officials.  This week I’m full of pride for our performance despite a defeat and the end of our national cup campaigns.  The 2-1 score line doesn’t tell anything like the real story of the game, or more to the point, the build up to kick off.

Ten days ago we beat a very strong Walton Casuals side but at a significant cost.  James Hammond picked up a facial injury that required surgery that very same night, whilst two other central midfielders, Jack Dixon and Lloyd Harrington picked up their fifth bookings of the season.  All three would miss this FA Trophy game at Kingstonian.

fullsizerender-6At Three Bridges on Tuesday night after another impressive performance we lost another centre-midfielder, and temporary centre-back Lloyd Cotton through injury.  Then twenty-four hours ago we lost two of our most impressive young midfielders, Charlie Coppola and Ronnie Conlon due to illness.  Six midfielders down, it was going to be a struggle to find eleven fit players, yet alone four who could play in midfield.

Darren’s fear was that all of our recent work and progress would be undone if we lost heavily to a Ryman Premier League side who have the likes of Ryan Moss, Joe Turner, Youssef Bamba and of course Pelayo Pico Gomez even if things weren’t good for them at the moment.  In fact the match report post their defeat against Worthing on Monday read like this:-

“Ks aren’t that good at the moment. It’s difficult to tell how bad they are though. Even over the course of these four defeats they’ve played half decent football, but there’s a few too many, ‘are we too good to go down’ conversations for anyone’s liking”

Mindgames?  Perhaps but we had other things on our mind as we headed to Kingsmeadow on Sunday morning.  Things like can we find 11 fit players and how can we fit them into eleven different positions.  Each week we may joke that we will have our boots when we talk to Darren 24 hours before the game, “just in case”, but I felt that this week it was more of a rhetorical question than a joke.  Even as I sat watching Brechin City v Livingston yesterday I was on the look out for anyone I could sneak back in my hand luggage.

fullsizerender-7At 1.30pm Darren had chosen his team.  At 1.35pm he had changed his team and then again at 1.45pm as the coach arrived at Kingsmeadow.  I met Baz in the tunnel and even then the starting XI wasn’t finalised.  When it was there was one player making his debut, young Jack Whitmore in central midfield, whilst Gus Sow came in for his first start for Lewes, playing his first game after a hand operation on an injury sustained on his debut at Faversham Town.  We had a right-back playing at centre-back, a left-back playing at right-back, a left-midfielder at left-back, a centre-forward in left-midfield, two left-midfielders in the centre and on the right respectively.  We did have a goal keeper in goal and a centre-forward up front so it all wasn’t bad, whilst on the bench we needed a nanny due to their age to protect them from Darren and Ross’s adult language.  What could possibly go wrong?

Kingstonian 2 Lewes 1 – Kingsmeadow – Sunday 30th October 2016
Twenty minutes into this game and Stacey Freeman towered above the K’s defenders to send a powerful header goalward.  With the slightest of flicks, Jonté Smith turned the ball into the net to give The Rooks the lead.  The announcer gave the goal to Stacey but try taking that one off Jonté.  The goal was no less than Lewes deserved.  There was no regard for reputation or league status – we simply looked the better team, with better shape and better desire to win.  The players drafted in, or playing out of position didn’t look incumbered at all.

fullsizerender-5Was the performance a surprise?  Or was it the product of a squad playing with confidence backed by the support of the fans?  About 20/80 I’d say.  I certainly thought we  would struggle but we settled quickly, moved the ball well and looked positive.  We should have had a second when Brotherton headed over from close range and the Rooks certainly went in at the break in a better place than the hosts.

On Tuesday night at Three Bridges we conceded twice in just a few minutes after half-time but came back from 2-1 down to win 5-3.  Last Saturday we came from 2-1 down to win 5-2.  After 55 minutes in this game we needed to do it for a third time in a row.

Two defensive mistakes led to two Ryan Moss goals in the 53rd and 57th minute.  I’m not going to dwell on the goals – players make mistakes but few will beat themselves up over it.  I know that in this case the player at fault will be beating himself up now, hours after the game.  Games change in a fraction of a second and when Moss won possession from the defender in the area and scored his second, we knew we faced an uphill battle.

But battle we did.  Brotherton and Culley came close, a linesman’s flag denied young substitute Robinson as he was through on goal.  But ultimately we couldn’t find a way through.  We were out but there was certainly no shame, just disappointment that we didn’t come away with anything.

The tired old line of “concentrating on the league” comes to mind, although we came into the game in some of the best league form we’ve shown in over five years (six wins, one draw from eight games).  The test comes when we line up against Ramsgate in a week’s time as to whether we put all of the frustrations into that performance.  By then we will welcome back some of the missing players absent today.

One final word on our hosts.  Whilst their fans publicly lamented our relegation at the end of last season as they would be missing “their favourite away game of the season”, visiting today also reminded us of how hospitable they are as a club to guests.  Let’s hope our separation is only temporary.

It’s all in the interpretation


“It’s all in the interpretation”

That was the final word on the matter.  The referee had spoken.  Case closed.

Back in the summer, along with representatives from 71 other Ryman League clubs, sat through a presentation from former Premier League referee Neale Barry, outlining the significant changes to the laws of the game, introduced by IFAB.  He delivered the presentation as you would expect a referee to do so, not taking any back-chat or listening to reasoned discussion, and threatening to send off the club secretary from Wroxham for wearing the wrong coloured cycling shorts (OK – so that last one may not be strictly true).  But it was our jobs to listen and then feedback the rule changes to our management team, and onto the players.

Now at this stage I want to make a very clear statement.  Referees often have a thankless task, knowing that one lapse in concentration or getting a decision marginally wrong can be costly.  Likewise, any contentious decision, and there will be many of these in a game, will be applauded by one team and derided by another.  We’ve seen some outstanding referees this season and last – in fact last Wednesday in our win at Walton Casuals, where the referee booked five players from each side, I thought he was very good and more importantly, worked very well with his assistants.  When we have referees like that I will always make a habit of telling them they had a great game.  Likewise we’ve had some poor officiating teams (and that’s the difference – it isn’t just one man, but three) and again I have no issue telling them in a calm manner or asking for explanations (as we are entitled to) post match.

But what happens when we understand the rules better than the officials?  Well that just leads to confusion and frustration as we saw yesterday in our game against Cray Wanderers.

fullsizerender-2The Rooks had turned around a half-time 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead as we entered the final quarter of the game.  A bouncing ball had Charlie Coppola’s name all over it but a clumsy rather than a violent or malicious high challenge from the Cray full-back Jeysiva Sivapathasundaram saw him given a straight red.  Slightly unfair I’d say.  Charlie was on his haunches holding his side and then the unnecessary pushing and shoving started.  The referee, deciding to focus on the flash point (with his assistant no more than ten yards away staying out of the way) called on our physio to look at Charlie without checking whether he was injured.  Paul runs on and within 30 seconds, whilst the fracas is still being dealt with, Charlie is on his feet.

At that point, according to the new rules (rule 5 subsection 6 I believe) Charlie should now be allowed to remain on the pitch to take the free-kick.  The old rule was very clear that any player treated by the physio had to leave the pitch but it was deemed to be an unfair rule where foul play had taken place.  So the rule was changed to:-

“a player is injured as the result of a physical offence for which the opponent is cautioned or sent off (e.g. reckless or serious foul challenge), if the assessment/treatment is completed quickly” and the explanation for this change was, “It is widely seen as unfair that a player who is injured by a serious foul and the trainer/doctor comes on, the player has to leave the field giving the offending team a numerical benefit”

Our Physio questioned the decision that he had to escort Charlie off the pitch but knew full well he risked a caution himself if he didn’t comply.  I tried to alert the linesman to the fact.  Not even an acknowledgement.  I walked round to the other side of the pitch and asked the other assistant.  He at least responded although his answer of “What do you expect me to do, I am 50 yards away” was perhaps not the right thing to say – they are supposed to be a team and if he sees anything wrong surely he has a duty to tell the referee?

So Charlie has to stay off the pitch, whilst a free-kick in a dangerous position, which more than likely he would have taken, was easily cleared.  Post match according to the referee, Charlie’s injury was not quickly assessed and that is why he left the field, despite the fact he was busy dealing with events elsewhere and thus the game wasn’t held up.  So we are penalised for the fact one of our players was fouled?  Which is exactly why the rule change was brought in.

fullsizerender-3The second incident, in the last few minutes when we led 4-2 saw a Cray player wrestle one of our players to the ground and then strike him.  This happened right in front of the home dug-out.  Darren Freeman naturally ran on to try to protect his players from suffering any further injury or to get further involved.  His involvement then led to a retaliatory action from their bench of also running on.  The Cray player was understandably dismissed but so was Darren for “entering the field of play”.  Fair enough – the rules on that are very clear, but what about their bench?  Does that rule simply become null and void once someone has transgressed?  Does the rule say you only have to punish the first transgression?

Fortunately the 5-2 win was enough to get rid of the annoyance at the officiating but there has to be consistency in how the rules are interpreted.

Who’d be a referee?

Economic Theory explained by Football 19 – Giving before receiving


The term “fallen giant” seems to be one exclusively used by the Footballing world. Our top four divisions are littered with them.  Leeds United, Newcastle United, Portsmouth, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Wolves, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic.  At points in the last couple of decades you could have included Manchester City, Chelsea, and even Premier League champions Leicester City on the list.

The definition of fallen giant seems to be any club that’s ever won a major honour, has a decent fan base and big stadium, that has through chronic MIS-management found themselves sliding down the leagues.  The Championship is so full of fallen giants that it’s hard not to have at least one game a weekend without the media referring to one side as such.

How much sympathy should we have for them though?  In his book Money and Football, Stefan Szymanaki examines the failure of ITV Digital at the turn of the century and the impact that had on Football League clubs.

The original deal, signed by OnDigital in June 2000 would see £315 million flow into the pockets of the 72 Football League clubs over a three year period from June 2001.  Despite the fact they didn’t have any of the cash yet, during the summer of 2000, spending on players by the Championship clubs was up by 36% year on year.  Twelve months later just before the first payments were due to kick in, they had increased that amount by a further 24%.  Eight months into the TV deal, ITV Digital went bust.

Many clubs then threw their hands up claiming financial distress because of the collapse of ITV Digital but in reality they had spent their pocket money increase before they’d received it.  In other walks of life we’d be more prudent – we’d not agree to buy a book before it was written, buy a car before we’d at least seen a review (I will conveniently ignore property at this point) or buy a ticket to see a film before production has even started.  Football, it seems, is the home of financial imprudence.

That being said, football does have a Teflon coating.  In 1923 the Football League consisted of 88 teams. Ninety years later 85 of those teams were still in existence, albeit it some had changed name.  Compare that to an average High Street over the same period.  How many businesses that existed back in 1923 still exist today?  Think about industry verticals such as airlines.  Twenty years ago the sky was dominated by Pan-Am, Danair and Pacific South-West.  All three have gone to that great airplane graveyard in Arizona (yes, that is a real place). Banking – how about Lehman’s, Barings, Northern Rock?  Even the British High Street has not been immune with Woolworths, Blockbuster, Jessops, Tie Rack and now British Home Stores disappearing. These are businesses that have failed, yet a little-old football club, like Lewes, that ducks and dives for over a century seems to be made of Teflon.

Why? Because we’ve learnt to adapt, we’ve learnt to cut our cloth according to our needs and we’ve learnt the painful lesson of spending that pocket money before we had it and vowed never to do it again.  There’s also more emotional engagement with a football club than a High Street brand.  When Woolworth disappeared we may have lamented the fact that we bought our first record there or we could always sneak a few extra sweets in the pick and mix, but we found other shops to satisfy our musical and sweet tooth needs.  Football clubs represent communities and have emotional attachments.  People have far more invested than simply money.  So individuals will often throw bad money after good (and vice versa) to keep a club alive.

The community-ownership model is slowly becoming the model of choice for clubs who have suffered the financial distress of administration or winding up orders.  I cannot guarantee a successful future but it does mean more of a stress-free one.

 

Which league is winning the sack race?


Question – Which English league has so far seen the most managerial sackings?

For those fans who live in the warm, safe environment of the Premier or Football League I don’t they will know the answer to hand.  For the record there have been eight managers leave their posts since the start of the season, although you could also bundle in the likes of Allardyce and Bruce who left their positions in the pre-season period.  The Championship actually leads the way with three manager’s fired so far this season – Nigel Pearson at Derby County, Paul Trollope at Cardiff City and Roberto Di Matteo at Aston Villa, with League One and Two only having two casualties apiece, whilst poor old Francesco Guidolin being the sole Premier League scalp so far.

However, take one step down from Football League Two and you will find possibly the most cut-throat managerial environment in England.  The National League Premier, aka The Conference Premier has so far seen seven of the twenty-four clubs lose their managers since the opening day of the season.  With almost a third of the season so far played, that number is ridiculous, but why is it over double that of any of the leagues above them?

26138079974_c44c4ab0bd_kThe clubs that have so far changed their managers on the whole would have expected to have been doing better than they had been at the time of the change:-

– Braintree Town – sacked Jamie Day in September.  After finishing in the Play-offs last season expectations would have been high but the loss of former manager Danny Cowley to Lincoln City was a big blow – borne out by the fact that Lincoln City are currently enjoying one of their best seasons in years, sitting in third place at the time of writing.  Day was fired with the club in 22nd place, one place lower that they are today.

– Eastleigh – sacked Chris Todd in August.  The season was only four games old when Eastleigh fired Todd after a shocking start had seen them bottom at the time.  Since appointing Ronnie Moore they have climbed up to 8th in the league, winning six and drawing three of their last ten games.

– Guiseley – sacked Mark Bower in August.  After surviving on the last day of the season with a win over Torquay United, it was somewhat of a surprise that the board at Guiseley decided to act so quickly, despite them being bottom of the league.  They are one of the smallest clubs in the league and keeping their head above water was always going to be a struggle with teams on significantly bigger budget.  Adam Lockwood was appointed as his replacement but they are still in the bottom four.

– Southport – sacked Andy Bishop in early September.  A similar situation to Guiseley where they have been just keeping their head above water for a while.  The former Football League club dispensed with Bishop’s services when the club were in 23rd spot.  He was replaced by Steve Burr and things are still not going to plan with the Sandgrounders currently propping up the rest of the league.

– Tranmere Rovers – sacked Gary Brabin in September, then replaced Interim manager Paul Carden in October.  It doesn’t seem that long ago since Tranmere Rovers were ripping up the Championship (or whatever it was called back then) and playing in a cup final at Wembley every year.  It must be hard being a Rovers fan today having those memories so vivid.  When they fell out of the league in 2015 they hoped to “do a Bristol Rovers” and bounce straight back up.  Under Brabin they finished last season in sixth place, missing out on the Play-offs by 2 points.  With the team in 5th place it seemed the decision to sack Brabin was harsh to say the least to an outsider.  Carden’s brief reign saw a win, a draw and a defeat before former Shrewsbury Town manager Mickey Mellon was appointed.

– Wrexham – sacked Gary Mills in October with the club in 15th place after defeat at Tranmere Rovers had left them in 15th place.  A subsequent home defeat in the FA Cup to Evostik First Division South Stamford, and a potential lucrative tie at Hartlepool United wouldn’t have particularly pleased the fans either.

– York City – Jackie McNamara “moved” upstairs in October.  There doesn’t appear to be much fun had supporting York City at the moment.  Earlier this week they crashed out of the FA Cup at Curzon Ashton, missing out on a tie against the lowest ranked side, Westfields, in the First Round Proper, whilst Chairman Jason McGill had to explain comments he made on national radio about the fans.  Whole situation with McNamara was bizarre to say the least.  He was given one game to essentially save his job, away at Braintree, which he drew and then appeared to have been sacked, only to them be appointed Chief Executive which begs the question why did they go public with the ultimatum in the first place.  Gary Mills, fresh from leaving Wrexham, was appointed this week as the new manager with York in 19th place.

So why has the National League Premier so far produced so much managerial upheaval?  Could it be that the Football League is due to decide next year on whether to completely revamp the structure of leagues, going from 3 divisions of 24 teams to 4 of 20, which would mean an additional 8 teams would join the professional game.  There had been some concern that the proposal may have been a back-door to try to sneak in Celtic and Rangers or some of the Premier League Development Squads, such as had happened in the failing and flailing Football League Trophy.  The “Whole Game Solution” was discussed at a meeting in September where it was agreed by a majority vote that it would NOT include the two previous options of the Old Firm and Premier League DS teams.  At that point the Non-League sides obviously started to rub their hands together, especially when a suggested was tabled for a 14 team expansion, making a Championship to twenty sides and then 22 in Leagues One, Two and Three.  If the Football League had any sense they would have already started down this route by allowing the National League sides to play in the laughable Football League Trophy rather than the Premier League DS sides but that’s another story for another day.

Consequently, clubs in the National League are eager to finish as high as possible to stand a chance to finish above whatever cut-off point is put in place.  Prize money, sponsorship money, TV revenues and so on are significantly higher in the Football League than the Non-Leagues and so clubs appear to be more prepared to make a change earlier in the season when things aren’t going their way (bar perhaps Tranmere who dispensed of Brabin when they were in 5th place).

With the proposals not now due to be discussed until June next year, the chance of any changes happening for the start of the 2017/18 season are very slim indeed.  However, that doesn’t appear to have stopped some teams where ambition may be significantly higher than reality in making managerial changes.  What some of the “traditional” Football League clubs may be missing is that some of the clubs now challenging in the National League are doing so from a stronger position both on and off the pitch.  Current leaders Forest Green Rovers have a multi-millionnaire owner who has invested in the infrastructure and squad over a number of years and it is only a matter of time before they reach the Football League either on their own merits or through the inevitable reorganisation.  Eastleigh and a wealthy backer who wants to deliver Football League status to the club, Maidstone United, Sutton United and Boreham Wood all have business models that have enabled them to build excellent facilities and continue to improve on the pitch.

Currently six points separates six former Football League sides in places 2 to 7 in the table.  Undoubtedly there will be more managerial merry-go-rounds before the year is out as boards of directors all across the league can almost touch the opportunity to play in the Football League (again).