The 2016/2017 Football League season is barely cold in its grave and already there’s another storm down at Meadow Lane but it’s not Richard Duffy getting a new five year contract. Just imagine. Today’s installment comes in the shape of the clubs decision to vote in favour of retaining the Checkatrade Trophy in it’s current format for the next two seasons. Yes, you read that correctly, TWO seasons.
Now, most people think the Checkatrade is/was/has been a terrible idea; you only have to look at the attendances of the competition country wide to know that, let alone the backlash of fans throughout its duration. Also, in case anyone wasn’t aware, when Shaun Harvey (our glorious EFL leader) negotiated the revamped format with EFL clubs, he failed to inform them that Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool had NOT agreed to enter the competition. Essentially the competition was sold on a false promise. There’s your starter for ten.
In the past few months, Football League clubs have given their fans an opportunity to share their views about the competition via surveys. Communicated clearly and quite correctly by the club, Notts fans voted as follows;
- 45% of fans voted to scrap the competition.
- 27.5% of fans wanted a return to the old format.
- 22% of fans wanted Conference teams to be brought into the format.
- 5.5% of fans were split between keeping the current format or making one key change – allowing L1 and L2 clubs to field whatever team they saw fit.
Without being a Maths teacher it’s clear to see that those numbers are pretty self explanatory; the majority of fans don’t want the competition at all and the vast majority don’t want academy sides in it. That is, has been and will continue to be the issue. The pilot of the format has shown that if the Premier League throw enough money around then the EFL will sit up straight and balance balls on their noses. For many, this is the scary thing – when does that stop? As the rich get richer, the poor seem to get poorer in football; so where does the line in the sand come? There are plenty of wider football issues if Football League clubs vote in favour of the continuation of the competition in its current format.
But closer to home and as news this afternoon broke of Notts’ decision to vote in favour of the continuation of the Checkatrade trophy in its current format, against the wishes of fans who had their say, Twitter became pretty lively
What a lot of fans have an issue with, me included, is the fact that the vast majority have been ignored. What is the point of having a consultation, allowing people to air their opinions if those opinions are so obviously ignored? This was never a 51% to 49% outcome – a split of 5.5% wanted the current format; a split. I completely understand the fans cannot be the core purpose/factor/ thought of every decision is made, but if the majority of those who took time to voice their opinions quite clearly don’t want something, then surely there’s an obligation to act on their behalf? If we add into this the supporters who didn’t turn up to Checkatrade Trophy games this season just gone, again that must be an indication that fans do not want this competition as it stands? Sometimes football fans get a raw deal but this is exactly why football fans sometimes despair; because their opinions do not feel valued, fans do not feel a real, actual part of the conversation.
As soon as the Twittersphere revved into gear, Mr Hardy entered stage right. As fans shared their concerns, these were batted away with Mr Hardy revealing that the financial bonuses of winning games in the competition (£20,000 a time) were a key reason for voting the way he did. As time passed, Mr Hardy said that all the bonuses promised were ‘vital’ to Kevin Nolan’s upcoming transfer budget;
Apologies but I’ve just cut your player budget by £100,000 (that’s 2 or 3 new players). Good luck this season.
Firstly, it feels as though the line is if you don’t agree with the decision you don’t want the club to succeed next season and secondly, fans are having a tough time understanding why Nolan’s budget is based on ‘vital’ funds that we have no idea if we’ll even receive. If we do win all five games, after subtracting any running costs that the competition will have seen us pay out, we’ll have extra income to strengthen the squad later on in the season, surely? Extra. Not a basis of a transfer budget that enables us to get 2 or 3 new players in this summer. And what happens if the other clubs vote against the current format, and the competition is scrapped or we win no games in it? Nolan’s budget will be £100,000 lighter and we won’t get these 2 or 3 new players. Or, even worse potentially, what if we invest this £100,000 now and don’t win any games? That does not sound to stable. Essentially what we have folks is Schrödinger’s Budget.
Whilst some people have overreacted to the announcement (calling someone a ‘massive cunt’on the Internet isn’t cool) but many fans have aired and hold very valid, well mannered and coherent issues with the decision. On early viewing, it seems these will be dismissed again.
To round it all off, from the Evening Post earlier;
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank supporters who took the time to give is their views. Our chief executive, Jason Turner, has passed on their feedback at EFL meetings.” Alan Hardy.