Representatives from League One and League Two clubs have recently met to discuss the format and future of the EFL Trophy. The controversial cup competition has had its reputation severely damaged after the changes brought in for the 2016-17 season. This included the introduction of B Teams from the Premier League and Championship and stricter selection criteria for the third and fourth tier clubs.
What’s the problem?
To those that don’t know, the EFL Trophy is a cup competition that third and fourth tier English sides are forced to compete in. The prize of making it to the final is a day out at Wembley and the chance to win silverware, which for the smaller clubs in those leagues, is a noble cause. But as a fan of a club that has been involved in the competition for the last six seasons (Sheffield United), I can confidently say that I will miss it as much as toothache and here’s why.
The competition was in need of a revamp after being stale for years but the changes that were implemented weren’t what anybody was expecting. Clubs with Category-A academies were allowed to enter Under-23 sides, which was meant to give young English talent more first-team experience. But that didn’t work out as established players were allowed to take part. For example, Leicester City’s “Under-23” side included a 36-year-old Pole, 28-year-old Spaniard and a 29-year-old Frenchman when they played against Sheffield United. The League 1 and 2 clubs were also heavily restricted in which players they could field, which many managers ignored and simply paid the fine.
Fans reacted to these deplorable alterations by braking record-low attendance figures up and down the country during the early stages of the tournament.
What should be done
At the aforementioned meeting, many of the issues that I’ve detailed above were discussed as well as ideas such as regionalisation to a later stage (to reduce travel time for away fans) and increasing the pitiful prize money to something more significant. However, I personally believe there’s only one option.
The competition needs to be scrapped.
The fans of even the smallest clubs in the lower leagues largely don’t care about the EFL Trophy, the attendances even before this season were well below the normal league average. With 46 game league seasons, the FA Cup and the League Cup, clubs in these divisions have schedules that are hectic enough as it is. The Wembley argument doesn’t even make sense when you think about it, as clubs from these leagues have the opportunity to go to the Home of Football if they reach the promotion play-off finals.
If the competition were to continue, expelling the B teams is the absolute minimum that has to happen in order for an improvement to be seen.
But what you think should happen to the EFL Trophy? Let me know in the comments below!