Clubs across League’s One and Two have published statements explaining their position on the agreed proposal to trial new changes to the EFL Trophy (formerly Johnstone’s Paint Trophy).
At the EFL summer conference the ‘majority’ of clubs voted to clear the path for Premier League Under-21 sides to compete in the 2016/17 campaign in a radical revamp. In what was described as a ‘lively’ debate by all 48 member clubs in the heat of Portugal’s summer, representatives voiced their approval of attempts to reignite interest in the cup or their displeasure at the EFL’s short cut in the search for new funding.
Many clubs have stated their belief that the EFL Trophy was an ailing competition, with Southend United chief executive Steve Kavanagh stating: “The EFL Trophy is dying. You either win it or want to go out in round one. The middle ground is a nightmare as there is little or no money, not many are interested, and now the competition doesn’t have a sponsor.”
Oxford United’s board also backed the proposal despite their chairman’s concerns, with a club statement reading, “It was decided to support the decision, but made it clear this was on the basis of the proposal being a one season trial period and if it does not work it will not be renewed. The prize money will now be double for next season.
New plans will see 64 teams compete in the cup, including 16 Premier League academy sides with an overhaul of the format. Next season will see a group stage implemented; four regions, four groups, four teams to a group, where a knockout competition will precede the final to be held in April 2017.
The Premier League will bolster prize money with a single cash injection of £1m, more than the Football League and the EFL Trophy sponsors could raise last season, to bring the total to £1.95m for 2016/17.
Opposition to the change did not go unnoticed, AFC Wimbledon voiced particular grievance in stating, “The Dons Trust Board strongly opposes this change and accordingly AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson spoke against it and voted against it at the EFL’s annual general meeting. Regrettably, the majority of League One and Two clubs decided to vote in favour.”
Along with the Dons, Accrington Stanley, Hartlepool United, Luton Town, Port Vale, Portsmouth, Morecambe and Fleetwood Town all voted against, compared to the 13 clubs who have publicly divulged they were in favour.
With a precedent now set by the EFL Trophy, attention turns towards next summer when all 72 clubs will vote on the controversial joint Premier League and EFL ‘Whole Game Solution’ proposal, which would see ‘B’ teams join the Football League and an additional division created.
Perhaps with this in mind Oxford United’s statement also added, “To be clear this is not a precursor to ‘B Teams’ entering the league structure and the Oxford United board would absolutely be against this should it ever be proposed.”
Central to this joint venture by the Premier League and EFL is their ‘commitment to creating more and better home grown players’. A push for development that could see the biggest change in the landscape of English football since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.