The subject of how to promote better movement from junior football into first-team football has eternally been a source of contention within English football. The debate recently came to a head, with Greg Dyke, chairman of the English Football Association, recommending the creation of "League Three", containing conference sides, and Premier League 'B' teams.
The idea was met with widespread contestation, leading the Football League to float a new idea, centred around the Johnstone's Pain Trophy, with sixteen 'B' teams from England's elite category one joining the competition in a newly created group stage. All the possible ideas for improving the pathway to regular competitive football for young footballers will be discussed at the Football League's summer meeting next week, but it begs the question, why can't England follow the model used so successfully in Spanish football?
Spain's system is based on simple rules. The reserve, or 'B' side, is not allowed to compete in the same league as their parent club, hence why Barcelona B where not allowed to be entered into the play-off system in the 2010/11 season, when they were managed by none other than Luís Enrique. In theory the rulings allow for a 'B' side in La Liga, although due to the fact that only Barcelona 'B' and Real Madrid Castilla currently operate in the Segunda División, this is unlikely to ever happen.
Below the Segunda División lies the Segunda División B, which contains eight teams split into four groups, with the top four sides from each group entered into a play-off, to determine the four clubs that are promoted to the Segunda División. Again, promotion is dependant on the parent club not taking part in the Segunda División. A glance through the Segunda División B reveals the likes of Celta Vigo 'B', Atlético 'B', Villarreal 'B', as well as Real Madrid 'C', the only third team to compete in the top three tiers of Spanish football.
The Spanish league system is therefore more conducive to reserve team football, given there are a total of 22 teams competing in the Segunda División, 80 in Segunda División B, and 361 teams in the Tercera División. In comparison, the Football League is made up of just 72 sides, with a further 24 in the Conference Premier and 44 divided into the Conference North and Conference South.
In the vast Spanish football system, 'B' sides are able to play competitive football without displacing smaller sides, whereas the introduction of English 'B' sides into "League Three" would inevitably oust some Conference sides. Spanish 'B' such as Real Madrid Castilla help to drum up interest in matches and regions that would previously be ignored, but this is not necessary in England, where vociferous support and tradition follows most sides.
So whilst the notion of copying the Spanish 'B' side model is, in theory, a utopian idea, in reality it just wouldn't work. England's current league setup is one of the few in world football where support for clubs permeates the whole way down the pyramid. To change the system, in an attempt to aid the progression of the countries young footballers, would be too big a risk to take, regarding altering supporter behaviour.
The upside would be the English equivalents of Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and Raúl progressing through English 'B' sides, eventually starring for club and country. This will forever be a pipe dream, and with English football already accused of being elitist to the top sides, further aggravation and detachment between the Premier League, and the rest of English football needs to be avoided at all costs.
'B' teams would not be the solution to England's problems, and even in Spain, the fact that Gerard Deulofeu, Rodrigo and Daniel Carvajal all chose to go out on loan instead of plugging away with their respective 'B' sides shows that using the loan system effectively remains the best resource for producing top young talent.
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