The English Football League has made dramatic changes to the format of the newly-named EFL Trophy, previously known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Premier League clubs were invited to play Under-21 sides in the competition this season, along with the existing 48 League One and Two teams.
Sixteen clubs will enter their academies to play in the EFL Trophy and with the extra times, the competition would have a group stage before knockout games with a draw going to penalties and the winning side gains an extra point. However, the new format has angered many supporters of clubs from the third and fourth-tier of English Football – with lots deciding to boycott the tournament altogether.
The introduction of these Premier League and Championship Under-21 sides will reduce the chance of a lower-league clubs getting the chance to play at Wembley. The whole point of the formation of the EFL Trophy was to allow teams from League One and Two a chance to play at Wembley – without having to get past your typical ‘big clubs’ in the Capital One Cup and FA Cup.
I’ve been studying and asking quite a few questions to supporters, who both see the positives and the negatives. The FA have this long-term plan to promote youth players at football clubs, rather than looking abroad. For these youth players it is vital they get as much experience as possible before being promoted to their side’s first-team. One of the ways to do this is to get them to play against professional footballers and the only solution to that is getting academies to play professional teams from the league pyramid.
In a survey by the ‘Against League 3 campaign’, 75% of the 1,500 voters were not in favour of the new proposals but honestly if you do boycott the EFL Trophy next season then all you’re doing is letting your club down. Teams from the lower-leagues heavily rely on gate receipts and supporters deciding not to turn-up because it’s against an Under-21 side will be a disappointment. The competition has never had a great reputation for having large attendances compared to league games but imagine instead of having 2,000 fans, you’d have 1,000. Or 1,000 going down to 400/500 just as a result of the new format.
Even the players prefer as many faces in the stands as possible, creating as much an atmosphere as possible. If footballers are not up to the game because their fans can’t be bothered to make their way through the turnstiles then they won’t perform at their best, meaning these academy sides are getting a false representation on the team, players, performance etc.
So if you are reading this then I suggest you change your mind and do attend the EFL Trophy next season, because with your support the club may actually get to Wembley and ticket prices are usually halved for this competition so surely there’s no excuse not to turn-up?