Football League Trophy – a good competition ruined

FreightRover

I have enjoyed some great days supporting Wigan Athletic and a couple of the most enjoyable were seeing my team twice win the Football League Trophy.

First in 1985 I was at Wembley to see Latics win the Freight Rover Trophy overcoming Brentford 3-1 and then in 1999 I returned to Wembley and to see them victorious in the Auto Windscreens Shield defeating Millwall 1-0.

These were memorable days even for a club that went on to win the FA Cup, spend eight seasons in the Premier League and compete in Europe.

However, although Latics will be once again competing in the Football League Trophy (now Checkatrade Trophy) this season I will reluctantly have to boycott the games.

Chief Executive Shaun Harvey and the bureaucrats of the English Football League (EFL) have now demeaned a once important competition for League 1 and League 2 clubs.

For those who are unaware the EFL decided to introduce Premier League and Championship U21 teams into the competition last season and what a disaster it has proved to be.

Attendances fell from an average 3,221 in 2015/16 to 1,404 2016/17 with many matches only watched by a few hundred spectators. Twelve teams were fined for making too many changes to their starting line-ups.

Some PL clubs used the competition to give senior players match practice while others used it exclusively for youth XIs.

The incoherence of the competition rules meant that many teams strived to be knocked out as early as possible. The EFL have somehow contrived to create a competition which is against football.

Coventry City and Oxford United did play in front of 74,000 people in last season’s final but overall the competition now lacks any credibility and has become a laughing stock.

It is clear that the competition is now for the benefit of the rich Premier League clubs trying to develop their young players.

Many of the lower league clubs are struggling for financial survival and they have effectively been bribed by increasing the prize money from £2m to £3m to continue to participate.

Many fans have vehemently opposed the change in the competition but the EFL have disregarded their opinions and scored a massive own goal by submitting to the demands of the Premier League.

Most football fans are against having Premier League U21 teams in the competition and they see it as the first steps in a move to introduce B teams into Leagues 1 and 2.

Having B teams playing against Football League sides is purely to assist Premier League clubs who are hoarding good young players.

Chelsea for example, have around 80 players registered. It would therefore be much more sensible for the rich clubs to have limits on squad numbers and these players be given their chance to play elsewhere in the Football League or National League.

It is a sad state of affairs, but unless the competition reverts back to Leagues 1 and 2 only, I won’t be able to support Latics in the Football League Trophy.

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About ianhaspinall

Communications specialist, Wigan Athletic fan & blogger, interested in music, arts & culture.
This entry was posted in Auto Windscreens Trophy, Checkatrade Trophy, EFL, Football League Trophy, Freight Rover Trophy, Wigan Athletic and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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