Clubs Agree To EFL Trophy Extension
The majority of League One and Two clubs have today agreed to keep the Under 23 element of the EFL Trophy for a further two years.
The trial of the new format in 2016/17 that saw 16 Category One Under 23 sides enter the competition from the Premier League and Championship received a very mixed reaction with some clubs seeing the benefit, others being thoroughly overwhelmed and well, fans spoke with their feet when it came to attendance levels.
In a consultation back in April member clubs were presented with three options for the future of the competition:
1. Retaining the current format with amendments
2. Reverting to a 48-team knock-out competition
3. Abandoning the Checkatrade Trophy altogether
66.6% of clubs opted for Option One and with some amendments to last season's rules, the new format has been agreed upon for seasons 2017/18 and 2018/19.
The amendments are as follows:
EFL team selection criteria amended to allow increased flexibility for League One and League Two clubs
An increase in the total competition fund to £3million
Each group will continue to contain one invited Under-21 team with the remainder made up of EFL clubs from either League One or League Two. Groups will be formed to minimise overall travel time for EFL clubs and fans
Invited Under-21 teams will play their Group games away from home
Regionalisation until the Quarter-Final stage (improved from Round Two in 2016/17) to minimise overall travel time for clubs and fans
Flexibility of fixture dates to allow teams to schedule games outside of international weeks
As part of the proposals, the selection criteria for invited Under-21 teams will remain as 'six players from the starting 11 must be under the age of 21 as at 30 June 2017.'
The headline objectives remain as:
Provide enhanced playing opportunities for young players of EFL and Category One Clubs
Enhance the profile of the competition
Improve the revenue opportunities for EFL Clubs
Clearly the upping of the Premier League revenue pot from just under £2million in total last year to £3million played its part in helping the plans through but also crucially greater flexibility for League One and Two clubs in their team selection had become a big issue with sides like Luton heavily fined last year for actually complying with the ethos of giving youth a chance.
Unfortunately though the changes don't stop Category One clubs from playing 30 year old internationals and devaluing the competition on that front - let alone the spirit in terms of being youth orientated but there are clearly steps in the right direction.
For member clubs though the 'qualifying first team player' element of the EFL Trophy has been reduced to any goalkeeper and only four outfield players being the requirement.
EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey explained.
'The history of the EFL Trophy is one of new ideas and innovation, but at its heart has always been the belief that this is an opportunity for League One and League Two clubs to taste cup success. I am therefore delighted to see the backing the Checkatrade Trophy has received from our clubs for the next two seasons, following a full and comprehensive review of this year`s pilot format. We wanted to ensure that League One and League Two Clubs had the opportunity to make the key decisions regarding where we take the competition in 2017/18 and beyond and I believe we have reached a revised format that benefits all parties.'
'EFL clubs will have greater flexibility with regard to team selection, while still maintaining the principle that this is a first-team competition for our clubs that will support the development and progression of young players. The competition will also provide significant financial rewards for all EFL clubs, which increases with success.'
Luton Town manager Nathan Jones said himself.
'From a footballing perspective, the Checkatrade Trophy was a huge benefit to us as it gave senior players from the lower divisions the chance to play against a younger group from higher levels of the English game, but it also allowed us to pit our talented youngsters against Category One academies. We are pleased that our feedback has been taken on board, with the relaxation of the selection rules allowing us to play the players we choose to. We strongly feel our young players deserve the same opportunity as those from Category One academies. I know our supporter groups have been consulted all the way through by the club`s board when giving our views, and hopefully any fears they had on that front have been allayed.'
'These are some of the best young players in the country from the top academies we are coming up against, and with the prize money increase, it`s an excellent way of filtering some of the Premier League cash through to the lower divisions while benefiting our own players on the pitch.'
As of yet Category One entrants for next season have not been confirmed.