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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 10:40 GMT
League dismisses club cull
The financial position is worsening for clubs across the country
Clubs' financial positions are worsening in England
The Football League has hit out at a bid to reduce the number of professional football clubs to 50.

Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon warned on BBC Radio Five Live that less than half the 92 clubs would survive the current financial crisis.

And, in a bid to keep the sport afloat, he suggested reducing the number of professional clubs to just 40.

But League spokesman John Nagle said: "The momentum is moving the other way with numbers of professional football clubs increasing rather than declining.

"There are now 10 full-time clubs in the Conference taking professional football over the 100 mark, with many others currently considering the same step."


We can't have four divisions of professional football any longer
Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon

The majority of football clubs were hit by the earlier collapse of ITV Digital, with some being forced into administration.

But Nagle remains confident all the professional clubs can stay solvent.

He added: "If the game continues to re-distribute some of its wealth through Cup competitions, transfers and the direct funding of youth football, clubs can be viable in the long term."

United chief Kenyon had earlier unveiled his bid to make the sport more financially viable.

He explained: "Quite clearly, I don't think we can have four divisions of professional football any longer.

"I can't see much beyond the first two divisions being professional and the third being semi-professional, so probably around 40 clubs."

His sentiments were backed by BBC director general Greg Dyke, a former director at Manchester City.

He told Radio Five Live that lower league footballers would increasingly have to look elsewhere for work to supplement their income.


If clubs adopted simple housekeeping, there would be room for four professional divisions
Torquay chairman Mike Bates

Leeds United deputy chairman Allan Leighton, however, warned wage restructuring was the immediate answer.

Leighton said: "Some clubs have big squads of 25 to 30 players who are paid whether they play or they don't, whether they are fit or not, whether you win or you don't.

"I think one of the things I would like to see coming much more into the game, the same way as it is in many other businesses, is performance-related pay."

Some lower league clubs' wage structures are already in good order, according to Torquay chairman and owner Mike Bateson.

Bateson, whose side are currently sixth in Division Three, said: "We're not struggling. We've got money in the bank.

"If other clubs adopted simple housekeeping then there would still be room for four professional divisions."

But Sheffield United football executive Terry Robinson said that, whatever was put in place, clubs would begin to fall by the wayside.

Robinson said: "I believe that with some changes that the number [of clubs that could be sustained} could be nearer 60 clubs."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC business editor Jeff Randall
"Most clubs are making massive losses"
Man Utd chief Peter Kenyon
"Not all clubs can be professional"
Torquay Utd chairman Mike Bateson
"Good housekeeping is the key to survival"

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