Danny Cowley: Top tier 'obligation' to help whole football pyramid

Nicky and Danny Cowley took over at Huddersfield in September 2019

Nicky and Danny Cowley took over at Huddersfield in September 2019

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HUDDERSFIELD TOWN manager Danny Cowley says there is a “real obligation” for the top of the English game to protect the entire football pyramid, which is “the strongest in the world”.

The 41-year-old, who started his managerial career at Concord Rangers in the Essex Senior League, is in the unique position of having worked in eight of the top nine divisions in England.

With football suspended since March 19th because of coronavirus and facing an uncertain future, Cowley says he fears for clubs lower down the pyramid.

“We still keep in close contact with a lot of people in non-league football and, certainly for the smaller clubs, we worry about them,” he told the Training Ground Guru podcast.

“First and foremost, their major revenue is supporters coming through the gates and paying their money and just behind that it’s local businessmen that sponsor and support the club.

“Without a doubt, it’s a worry for them. As a country, we should be mightily proud of the depth of our English footballing pyramid which, for me, is the strongest in the world. As a collective, we’ve got to try to protect and support that in any way we can.

“I’ve had the pleasure of managing in eight of the top nine divisions, which has been a fantastic journey and learning experience. All the way beyond non-league football to grassroots, there’s a real obligation (from the top). Prior to this, we could have done it better.

“I do think this period has given everyone a period to reflect and look at how we live and, more specifically, look at the detail and organisation of the business we’re in. If we can find a way to be able to support lower league and grassroots football then we must do that.”

The English football pyramid has the Premier League at the top and goes down through the Football League to the seven tiers of the National League System. All are bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation, which means, in theory, that a team can go all the way from the bottom to the very top.

On Friday, League Two clubs voted to end the season, with final places decided on a points-per-game system. However, they also voted to scrap relegation, meaning bottom side Stevenage would stay up.

This decision - which still needs to be ratified by the EFL and Football Association - undermines the pyramid, according to Havant & Waterlooville manager Paul Doswell.

“If we are a football pyramid, a true football pyramid, then everyone in essence does the same," he told the Telegraph. “The whole pyramid system is under threat.

"How is it right that League Two don’t want to relegate but are happy to promote? To my mind there are 12 better run clubs in the National League than League Two anyway.

“They [the FA] haven’t shown any leadership. Everyone has gone on self-interest. We can’t have different leagues deciding different things for themselves. It’s the end of the pyramid in many ways. It’s a closed shop.”

Doswell warned that a “tsunami of pain” awaited clubs from League One downwards.

“The only thing saving football clubs from League One down is furlough,” he said. “There’s going to be zero income when we come back. Sponsors will go out of football - they will be trying to save their own business and families.

“No one knows their budget. We can't reopen until they allow crowds.”

The furlough scheme – under which the government pays 80% of staff wages up to £2,500 a month – is being extended until October, but state support will be scaled back from August.

The Premier League transfers £400m a year to the EFL and National League, although £260m of this is in the form of parachute payments to the nine clubs relegated from the top tier over the previous three seasons.

On 3rd April, the Premier League agreed to advance £125m in payments to the EFL and National League, although only £2m will go to the 68 National League clubs.

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