EFL Trophy Pilot

Good afternoon,
Thank you for your reply. I decided to wait to reply until full details of the new look EFL Trophy were released.

Whilst I find certain factors in the new format commendable (prize money and ‘Invited Clubs’ playing at first team stadiums) there are still issues I feel are worth bringing up.

My biggest concern, of a fan of a League 2 club, is the fixture congestion the competition will cause and the various factors that come along with it.

Firstly, on the very simple premise of getting to the final, a club would have to play an additional 8 games to win the competition. That’s 8 games added onto a league season of 46 games and a minimum of 2 other cup games (The FA Cup and The League Cup) – this is without factoring in the fact that a good percentage of teams will play more than 1 game in each of the FA and League Cup.

In addition to this, even though in your reply you say… “Fixture congestion will not become an issue, as this competition will be fitted into the season’s calendar.” this simply is not the case. For my club in particular, Notts County, (and probably every other League 1 or 2 club) we will be heavily hampered by the changes. With the Group Stage fixtures of the EFL Trophy being midweek, we are now being asked to play an additional 3 sets of ‘Saturday – Tuesday – Saturday’ games before the middle of November taking our midweek games to 6. And whilst the prize money seems generous, I don’t feel it will adequately cover for the extra expenditure of clubs for these games. If you add to this the fans, you are asking fans to attend more games at more cost to them at a more inconvenient time – midweek. When this decision was made, were the fans consulted? You say in your reply that the proposals were ‘sent to clubs’ but were we, paying fans (or customers/consumers as we are becoming) asked what we wanted? Or have you simply bowed to the pressure of The Premier League and given ‘League 3’ and PL ‘B’ teams a way into the League system?

Also, as you travel down the football pyramid, finances are squeezed tighter and tighter – can a League 2 club who finished 19th last season realistically have a budget to put together a squad to compete successfully in 4 different competitions? Or, take Accrington Stanley as another example, a team who finished in the League 2 play off places last season, but had an average home attendance of 1800 – can they be expected to successfully compete in 4 competitions? Contrast this to, say, Manchester United – the rules stipulate “Invited Clubs – 6 of the starting 11 to be U21 (as at June 30). Hypothetically, say Accrington are drawn with the Manchester United ‘Invited’ team and are scheduled to play them in the final round of group games and around this time, Wayne Rooney (again, as an example) is coming back from injury and Jose Mourinho deems it appropriate he needs match fitness and he is selected for the Manchester United ‘Invited’ side, plays 60 minutes, scores a hat trick and Accrington miss out on the round of 32 – is this fair on Accrington? When, for example, Rooney was injured and unavailable to play against the other 2 teams in the group. Even if you take the rules at face value, stated in this paragraph, Manchester United ‘Invited’ could potentially select – Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford on a whim, even though they would never normally be considered for U21 action in the course of a season.

Like I mention earlier, some of the amendments to the competition are commendable but I feel this pilot scheme (an easy term to hide behind) has ripped the heart (if there was any left) out of the competition – the EFL Trophy/JPT was the opportunity for the ‘smaller’ clubs to have some success, a day out at Wembley and the fanfare that goes with it. By increasing the number of participants you have made the task of supporting a club more difficult and costly for fans and by the nature of the teams you have ‘invited’ to take part, you have made it harder for ‘smaller’ teams to have their share of any glory.

I refer to my original email – do you want to see Swansea U21’s play Chelsea U21’s in the final, at Wembley of the English Football League Trophy?

Yours sincerely,

Tom