The 72 member clubs of the EFL have voted on a raft of changes that will be introduced during the 2023/24 season.
There will be a significant tightening of the rules when it comes to the owner and director’s test that all prospective parties will have to pass if they want to buy an EFL club – some will now find themselves disqualified due to the changing legislation.
Elsewhere, the days of long throw-ins being hurtled into the penalty area may be over – the use of towels and other items to dry the ball will be prohibited.
The introduction of a multiball system, already used in the Premier League and many of Europe’s other top divisions, should help to speed up play and minimise time wasting late on in games.
There’s plenty more to boot as the EFL shakes up its rules for the 2023/24 campaign.
Owners and Directors’ Test
The EFL already runs an Owners and Directors’ Test that is designed to winkle out bad apples and prevent clubs being acquired by questionable individuals.
The new rules will take this a step further, and will add extra disqualifying criteria that would prevent some using a loophole to take ownership of an EFL club.
The headline change is that owners and directors from a sanctioned country will be barred from running an EFL club – an example would be individuals from Russia, who have been banned from involvement in English football as punishment for the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The idea is that fewer clubs will run into financial peril if an owner is banned from investing in their club due to state sanctioning.
Other additions include a ban on those that have been declared bankrupt on two or more occasions – even when that has since expired, and the same will go for those with two or more criminal convictions; even when those are now spent.
Those involved in a corporate insolvency will also be barred, as will anyone that has been removed as a trustee of a pension scheme via the courts or a pensions regulator.
Anyone involved in an active investigation will also be barred from taking over at an EFL club until any legal case has been concluded satisfactorily.
The hope is that this tightening of the rules will stop EFL clubs falling into the hands of incompetent or nefarious individuals and ownership groups – the likes of Bury have been expelled from the Football League due to the actions of their owners, while countless others have entered administration and/or faced points deductions due to financial irregularities.
The End of Long Throws?
Without their dangerous long throws, Sheffield Wednesday almost certainly wouldn’t have been promoted from League One in 2022/23 – their injury time equaliser in the play-off semi-final against Peterborough United was scored from a missile launched into Posh’s box.
But the humble long throw might become a thing of the past after EFL clubs voted to ban the use of towels to dry hands and/or the ball prior to a throw-in being taken.
The EFL have also covered themselves in their policy wording by declaring a ban on any ‘other articles’ to be used to dry the ball.
That likely means we won’t see a repeat of the incredible scenes at Hillsborough again….
We’ve all seen it: how long it takes to retrieve match ball that has been punted into the stands – particularly when it’s the fans of the winning team that take receipt of the ball, and then slow the pace down by playing silly beggars with it.
That will also be a thing of the past in the Championship, League One and League Two after EFL clubs unanimously voted to adopt a multiball system for 2023/24.
So now, as soon as the ball goes out of play the team taking the resulting goal kick, throw in or corner can use any other ball, which will be stationed close to the pitch at regular intervals.
The move brings the EFL into line with the Premier League, Champions League and other major competitions around the world – a Tottenham ball boy was once credited with an assist by Jose Mourinho for his quick multiball thinking during a Champions League game against Olympiacos.
The 30-Day Rule
As the cost of living crisis infiltrates football – particularly at the lower level, the fear that more clubs will face possible administration and insolvency cannot be overlooked.
The EFL has designed a set of new rules that should help identify the most at risk clubs, while sanctioning those that try to use certain regulations to their own advantage.
So, as of 2023/24, clubs that accrue 30 or more days of non-payment of debts to HMRC across a 12-month period will be subject to a ban on signing players for three consecutive transfer windows.