FORMER Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside presented a radical idea for a two-tier Premier League a decade ago in order to create a more even spread of television and sponsorship revenues.

Gartside appeared to be doing little more than hypothesising when his words were first printed in The Bolton News – but a few months later he was asked to write a more detailed presentation to present at a Premier League meeting. The details were leaked and the contents of his paper gained significant interest from the national media.

The late Bolton chief, who passed away in February 2016, found himself being accused of trying to create a ‘closed shop’ while the side-issues of inviting Scottish giants, Glasgow Rangers and Celtic, and the potential of no relegation outside the two divisions, also proved controversial.

A year later, in November 2009, clubs voted firmly against the idea of bringing the Old Firm into play but wider aspects of Gartside’s vision were placed on the backburner for later debate.

Incredibly, almost 10 years to the day since Gartside first suggested a Premier League Two, the unlikely figure of Leeds United’s Italian chairman Andrea Radrizzani brought the idea back to the fore when addressing a sport business summit in London.

Speaking not from a position on the privileged side of the fence, as Bolton were back then, Radrizzani has called for change, arguing that the current Championship structure does not make enough TV money to be sustainable, subjecting its clubs to potential financial ruin.

When Gartside first proposed two divisions of 18 clubs under the Premier League banner, Leeds were entrenched in League One and may not have fallen into its remit.

The Elland Road club’s huge fan-base has, however, attracted significant interest from Sky Sports in recent seasons, and this has formed the basis of Radrizzani’s argument “I think the model of the Championship should be reconsidered, because the turnover of owners is not really a healthy system,” he told a conference. “It is not sustainable to stay in the Championship. This model, and also the small money they [the EFL] generate from TV rights, split between 72 clubs, maybe they need to reconsider, and consider another way, to create a Premier League Two or something else that can be sustainable.

“We should concede that a club like Leeds that is watched by 500,000 to 600,000 people live on Sky is getting from the league only £2million to £2.5m [TV income] and are actually penalised, because we are more than 20 times on TV. Maybe we should reconsider the system because it doesn’t work.”

Financial Fair Play theoretically restricts clubs to a £13m loss per season but Radrizzani argues clubs are still getting the thin end of the sponsorship wedge, leading to financial problems and continual boardroom changes.

“It’s difficult to be in a league where we make losses because there is not enough income generated from media rights,” he said. “So I think all the clubs should open a discussion to see how we can change this league so it’s sustainable – and [so we] don’t have a crisis every two years with every club going bankrupt or changing ownership.”

The EFL has agreed a new five-year deal with Sky Sports which will kick-in next season and is worth £600m, an increase of approximately 36 per cent on the current deal.

You cannot help but wonder what might have been, however, had the Football League accepted an offer from the Premier League in 1995 to tie future TV deals in with their own instead of striking out alone. If the estimates of a 20-25 per cent offer are correct, the current deal would be worth somewhere in the region of £428m a season to the 72 clubs outside the top flight.

Gartside was looking at things from a different angle back in 2008, his own club eight years into their Premier League tenure and still on a relatively sound financial footing. But the Bolton chairman could see problems on the horizon, not least a £31m income swing for clubs who dropped into the second tier.

Parachute payments at that stage were not considered by Gartside an adequate bridge.

“Currently the parachute payment is half of the annual standard payout,” he explained. “This year that number would have been in the region of £8m-10m. The income swing we would suffer from being in the Championship would be £31m, so the payment does not cover the downside any more.

“When we first got in the Premier League, the income swing was probably about £4m and the parachute payment was £2m. You could cope with it.

“The issue nowadays is the gap is too large. Teams who go out of the Premier League go bust. Not everyone, because some plan for it, but certainly some will, and it is becoming more and more difficult to plan for.”

By the time the club was relegated four years later, they were helped by a payment of £10.5m but Gartside had failed to heed his own warning. Wanderers posted losses of £50.6m, then a Championship record, and their inability to bounce straight back had dire consequences.

As often cited in these parts, it was the worst possible season to lose Premier League status. In the last six years a hike in domestic and foreign TV rights has nearly quadrupled parachute payments to relegated clubs and as a result the distortion of competitive balance is greater than ever.

Stoke City, relegated last season, received £103m from the Premier League which will drop to an estimated £63m this season, minus gate receipts and merchandise.

The parachute payment system sees clubs receive 55 per cent of their final year’s TV money in their first year after relegation, which drops to 45 per cent in year two and 20 per cent in year three, provided they do not gain promotion in the meantime.

That means Stoke’s income would fall to £53m if they do not secure immediate promotion and £27m if they do not go back up by 2021.

This season each Championship club receives a basic £2.084m and a £4.3m solidarity payment donated from the Premier League.

Leeds United, like Bolton, do not receive any parachute payments but nine clubs: Aston Villa, QPR, Hull City, Norwich, Middlesbrough Swansea, Stoke, West Brom and Sunderland – who were relegated to League One – are still claiming top-ups to their income.

The likelihood of the Premier League opening its doors to more members and spreading the wealth seems slim in the extreme, even though the likes of UEFA have vowed to explore ways of levelling the competitive advantages given by greater spending power.

Many, including ex-Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, believe a move to enforce regulations would hasten the advent of a breakaway European league.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck seemed to sum up the general mood of the elite yesterday as he rallied against suggestion big clubs should be forced to spread the wealth.

Speaking at the same sports business summit as Radrizzani had a day earlier, he noted: “In terms of competitive balance, which is always viewed in a negative way, I personally believe for the development of football, marquee clubs and marquee players are important,” he said. “It is important in developing fan base. It is important encouraging young people to engage in this sport and it also important in terms of the large clubs having the ability to put a lot of money into good causes which they do.

“So I am not, as a general proposition, in favor of dumbing down the large clubs in order to make all clubs the great unwashed. They have done that in the U.S. over the last 20 years and it has been to the detriment particularly of baseball ... I just don’t think it works for the long term.

“Clubs have to seek their natural position in the football order,” Buck added. “But I don’t think we should assume that because every club is not equal it’s bad.”