Premier League, EFL and FA chiefs hold ‘positive’ talks over game’s future

Senior figures from the three main football bodies in England have held what have been described as “positive, open and constructive” discussions about the future of the game.

For the first time, the respective chairs and chief executives of the Premier League, Football Association and Football League met on Friday.

The fixture calendar and an independent regulator were discussed.

Schedules will be squeezed further by the Champions League expansion in 2024.

Although there will not be such high-level representation at all future discussions, which are set to continue as a matter of urgency, they will return reasonably frequently, in a process that is set to take weeks or months to reach a definitive outcome.

The future of the EFL Cup, FA Cup replays and the Community Shield are all part of the discussions.

With the government expected to present its White Paper – a formal plan setting out its proposals – for football regulation in the early weeks of this year, focus will be on the Premier League and the amount of money it is willing to distribute to the wider game.

The EFL has been looking for £300m but it is understood the Premier League is reluctant to meet such a figure.

However, the haggling over that issue is brought into sharp focus by the knowledge that Uefa’s European competitions will change markedly from the 2024-25 campaign, when the Champions League group stage will be scrapped in favour of a ‘Swiss style’ competition, in which each of the 36 qualifiers play eight games against different opponents.

Those eight games will be played over 10 match-weeks. In addition, there will be one match-week of ‘calendar exclusivity’ for the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.

If this system, announced by Uefa on 10 May 2022, is not changed, it will mean 12 midweeks being used for the ‘initial stage’ rather than the six pre-Christmas midweeks at present.

There is no space in the English calendar to accommodate this. In general, during campaigns unaffected by a winter World Cup, there are only two midweeks – in August – that are not used for Europe, EFL Cup or Premier League games.

‘Spare’ midweeks after Christmas are for FA Cup replays, EFL Cup ties and matches postponed because of weekend clashes with the EFL Cup final and FA Cup semi-finals.

Although the suggestion of scrapping the EFL Cup and FA Cup replays and moving the Community Shield to a mid-season slot has been raised, there is no unanimity amongst Premier League clubs on this.

While clubs who routinely qualify for Europe need to create gaps in their playing schedule, for those who do not, cup ties are an important revenue generator.