Catlin not winding down B-team battle

Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin
Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin
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Hatched in England, scuppered in Portugal, Greg Dyke’s European-seasoned clone is no more.

Stirring beneath the ashes there remains the B-team concept, its pulse faint, yet nonetheless able to fight another day.

As regards to the widely criticised League Three option, it was chased out of the hotel Tivoli Marina Vilamoura without the opportunity to snatch up its luggage in the hurry.

For Mark Catlin, a victory for common sense achieved through an almost unanimous level of backing from Football League clubs.

Pompey’s chief executive had long spearheaded the backlash against this particular aspect of the Football Association commission’s findings.

In the setting of last week’s AGM, he was invited to sit and speak on a panel of four, during which a two-hour on-stage debate in front of their electorate took place.

Joined by Dyke, Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey and Exeter City vice-chairman and chief executive Julian Tagg, by all accounts the occasion was passionate amid a highly-charged exchange of views.

In terms of League Three, crucially it was decisive.

However, there remains a slim threat from B teams via the Football League Board’s alternative proposal to include them in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

That option will be explored further, dusted down, spruced up and presented once again for the 72 member clubs’ consideration in the future.

A defiant Catlin has every intention of carrying on spearheading the battle to defeat that also.

He said: ‘The clubs took a strong stand and it was more or less unanimously agreed not to let B teams into the league, thankfully that is dead and buried.

‘Iain (McInnes) and other chairmen spoke passionately from the floor and gave myself and Julian Tagg great support with some fantastic thought-provoking questions for Greg.

‘However, they (the member clubs) have said that they feel we should at least discuss the possibility of B teams entering the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

‘The Football League board stressed to us that they just want to explore if this had any merit.

‘If they managed to agree anything with the FA and Premier League they would still have to come back to the clubs and there will still have to be a vote.

‘And I will challenge it again, as I did along with many others.

‘Anything that affects the integrity of our league and cup structures I will defend to my dying breath. I am principally opposed to B teams contaminating independent club competitions.

‘The FA have been lauding this model we are supposed to be following and fair play to Greg and Shaun for giving me the platform to speak about my experiences of B teams in Spain. It seemed to go down really well with all the clubs.

‘I was a little surprised at the lack of some important details enclosed in elements of the commission’s report, those who have been involved in football in Spain at any level would have been able to supply such details.

‘I believe in our league structure and it is about fighting to preserve it rather than giving into the Premier League all the time.

‘If we are not careful then the clubs in the Football League will simply become feeder clubs for them. The lack of English players playing in our top tier is a problem of the Premier League’s creation, not the Football League.

‘For as long as Premier League managers keep buying in cheap foreign players this problem will continue to exist.

‘Thankfully that is not going to happen with regards to League Three and, due to the strength of feeling displayed, I am convinced this will not raise its head for quite some time.

‘I am going to carry on fighting against B teams, as I do worry that once they have a foot in the door via the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy it will just be the start.’

The sheer number of dissenting voices among league clubs represents a damning indictment of Dyke’s plans.

But Catlin has denied their stance has been motivated purely by a fear of change.

He added: ‘You cannot ignore what they are trying to do is progress the England side, I just don’t agree with how in regards of B teams.

‘There is actually a genuine desire from all Football League clubs to help, everyone cares about our national team, and a successful England national team will give renewed participation at grass roots level as well as see attendances jumping.

‘I am patriotic, we are English at the end of the day, and we all want the national team to do well, but with the greatest of respect to the FA my first, second, and third priority is Portsmouth Football Club.

‘I find the thought of B teams coming into the league abhorrent.

‘There were many other elements in the report which were welcomed and warmly accepted.

‘It’s a shame that on the whole a good and well-meaning report that talks about facilities, coaching and grassroots improvements has been spoiled by putting the B team element in.

‘Who actually benefits most out of B teams, England or the Premier League clubs?’