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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Football faces radical shake-up
Leicester City goalkeeper Ian Walker
Leicester have asked their players to take a pay cut
The financial crisis enveloping British football could force a radical change in the way the game is organised.

Smaller clubs will disappear, big clubs go into administration and player's wages fall, according to a leading football analyst.

John Williams, director of the football research unit at Leicester University, told BBC Sport Online that the problems crippling Leicester and Barnsley will be repeated across the country.

"We will see crises like this on a regular basis," said Williams. "In 10 years time, there will be a smaller number of full-time professional clubs.

Times are bad and they will get worse but football's future is bright

Football League spokesman John Nagle

"A larger number of clubs will have to reorganise and restructure, and the salaries of some players in the bottom half of the Premiership and in the top half of the Nationwide begin to come down.

"There are very few clubs who are structured in a financially sensible way. I do not see this going away."

But Williams' views were not echoed by the Football League.

League spokesman John Nagle admitted that football faced a major battle for survival but that the problem would be overcome.

He said: "There were initially claims that up to 30 clubs would go out of business but the reality is no one knows until we get through the next few years.

"Times are bad and they will get worse but I think these problems can be overcome and football's future is bright."

The League has already put in place a plan to try and rectify the problem.

Worst case scenario
Smaller clubs disappearing
Big clubs going into administration
Drop in players' wages

But Nagle added: "It would be wrong for me to say what those plans are or raise people's hopes for the future.

"Things need to be done to avoid a worst case scenario - where, with so many clubs in trouble, the investments dry up."

Despite the League's optimism, Williams warned that any club relegated from the Premiership could go into financial meltdown - just as Leicester, Bradford and Barnsley have.

"Southampton have just spent 32m on a big stadium, but if they found themselves in the First Division and struggled to get back out, one could see similar kinds of problems affecting them," he said.

"There are other clubs in the same boat. Clubs' financial directors deal with their football business in a different way than they would other businesses.

"They hope for the best, they want to be ambitious and their fans want them to be ambitious.

"But this is not great financial management - and in some cases there appears to be no Plan B."

Premiership problems

The way the balance of power is skewed in favour of the Premiership clubs must change, believes Williams.

"We need to look seriously at the nature and the structure of the relationship between the Premier League and the Football League," he said.

"Clubs need to look at their finances and plan on the basis of the worst case scenario. It is clear that the parachute payments* do not do the job."

*A club relegated from the top flight can expect to receive 6m in compensation from the Premiership in the first two years of its demotion.

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Football analyst John Williams
"Smaller clubs need to be more innovative"

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