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 Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 14:16 GMT
PFA 'will fight' club reduction
Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon
Kenyon favours reducing professional clubs
The Professional Footballers' Association has joined the opposition against plans to reduce the number of professional clubs.

Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon revealed on Thursday that the elite clubs favour halving the number of professional clubs in the League pyramid.

But PFA chairman Nick Cusack warned that the players' body would fight any attempted cull of the 92 professional clubs.

"At the top level they're saying the game can only be sustained by having a small number of professional clubs," said Cusack.

"But we believe that - beyond players' livelihoods - the Swanseas, Shrewsburys and Macclesfields of this world are very important to their local communities.

As we showed with the dispute over television money, players do stick together

PFA chairman Nick Cusack

"We want to keep them within the League pyramid."

Cusack had first-hand experience of what a club can mean to its local community when he was player-coach of Swansea City.

The club's supporters' association mobilised huge local support against the mismanagement by former owner Tony Petty, which threatened the club's existence.

The influence the PFA wields was demonstrated in November 2001 during a dispute over its share of television money.

An overwhelming 99% of players supported strike action, enabling the PFA to force a deal with the Premiership and Football League authorities.

The PFA is equally protective of its members' rights and wages and has stood up for players against club chairman eager to cut costs after the loss of ITV Digital money.

"If they were looking to cut players' wages and cut funding to lower division clubs, it's something the PFA wouldn't be happy with and we'd look to fight that," Cusack added.

"As we showed last season when we had the dispute over television money, players do stick together.

"There's a solidarity there to try and keep the structure of the game as it is at present - and it's something we won't give up lightly."

Cusack points out that many lower division clubs are already surviving primarily on their gate receipts and promotional activities, and can pull through the lean times.

He also believes that the game will stagnate without the push from below of ambitious clubs able to move up through the divisions.

"It will take possibly two or three years for clubs to learn to stand on their own two feet," Cusack said.

"With the right sort of management at the lower division level - and cutting their cloth accordingly - I'm sure they can survive and hopefully the game can go from strength to strength."

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 PFA chairman Nick Cusack
"The PFA wants to keep the 92 League clubs"

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