Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

New U21 tournament proposed

The Premier League believe their proposals would aid the development of young players

The Premier League is planning a new under-21 tournament this season involving other clubs in Europe - but claims the competition is not a rival to FA chairman Greg Dyke's ambitions for a 'B-league' involving top-flight reserve sides.

The plan, which the Premier League is hoping will receive UEFA's blessing, would see eight under-21 sides from England's top-flight play against eight others from countries including Spain and Germany as well as Scottish champions Celtic.

In May, Dyke's England Commission proposed a B league to operate below League Two aimed at giving young players more match experience - something that the new Premier League competition also aims to do.

Premier League communications director Dan Johnson said its proposal had been under consideration for several years and was unrelated to Dyke's scheme.

Johnson told Press Association Sport: "We do believe it would be good for the development of talented young players but it is not an answer to the B league proposal at all. It is something we have wanted to do for a number of years.

"We are keen to work with UEFA on what we think is a good development opportunity and there has been a lot of support from clubs on the continent.

"Our view is that an under-21 competition with a significant programme of international fixtures at lower age levels is a good opportunity to expose players to this level of competition.

"We now need to work with UEFA for their agreement."

That could present some problems however as UEFA already has its own under-19 tournament that shadows the Champions League. The Premier League believe however that the age difference of the two competitions would allow them to co-exist.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said earlier this year that a B league would damage the football pyramid that currently exists in the English game while the Football League has also opposed it.

The new Premier League competition would see 16 clubs split into four groups of four, with the winners and runners-up going through to quarter-finals which would be played over two legs. Up to three over-age players would also be allowed.

The clubs that finished in the top eight of the Premier League's under-21 development league would take part - apart from Liverpool who decided to not to take up the chance, allowing West Ham in instead.

The clubs are: Chelsea, Fulham, Leicester, Manchester City, Manchester United, Southampton, Sunderland, West Ham.

The eight clubs from Europe are: Celtic (Sco), Athletic Bilbao (Spa), Benfica (Por), Borussia Monchengladbach (Ger), Schalke (Ger), Porto (Por), PSV Eindhoven (Hol), Villarreal (Spa).

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