The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

EVER since the Foot­ball League Tro­phy was re­vamped and re­named last sum­mer, it has taken a pound­ing from the crit­ics.

Fans were un­happy with the fact that a com­pe­ti­tion which gave League One and Two clubs a chance to reach a Wem­b­ley cup fi­nal had been ‘de­val­ued’ by al­low­ing cat­e­gory one academy sides from Premier League clubs to en­ter. Many of them boy­cotted matches, caus­ing tiny at­ten­dances.

League One and Two clubs felt let down be­cause the Premier League gi­ants turned down their in­vi­ta­tions, mean­ing a num­ber of Cham­pi­onship clubs got the call in­stead.

There was con­fu­sion over whether the in­vited sides were Un­der-21 or Un­der-23 sides – in fact, six of the start­ing XI had to be Un­der-21 – while the fact that prize money was mas­sively in­creased (from £478,000 to £1.95m) was lost in the storm.

How­ever, EFL chief ex­ec­u­tive Shaun Har­vey, pic­tured right, told the BBC in mid­week that the Check­a­trade Tro­phy does have a fu­ture in its re­vamped for­mat.

Speak­ing in the build-up to this af­ter­noon’s all-League One fi­nal be­tween Coven­try City and Ox­ford

United, he said: “Ul­ti­mately the com­par­i­son was a com­pe­ti­tion pre­vi­ously where clubs were as in­ter­ested in get­ting knocked out in the first round as they were in get­ting to the fi­nal.

“That can’t bode well for the longevity of the com­pe­ti­tion. What we have cre­ated gives us a real op­por­tu­nity of us­ing this com­pe­ti­tion for the ben­e­fit of our clubs, the ben­e­fit of young play­ers in this coun­try and, as we will see on Sun­day, the ben­e­fit of in ex­cess of 70,000 fans hop­ing to cheer their side to vic­tory."

League One and Two clubs will dis­cuss the fu­ture of the com­pe­ti­tion at a meet­ing on April 11.

We asked four ex­perts – Peter­bor­ough di­rec­tor of foot­ball Barry Fry, Luton chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Sweet, Grimsby di­rec­tor John Fenty and for­mer New­port County boss Gra­ham West­ley – to give us their thoughts on the com­pe­ti­tion’s one-year trial and to tell us what should hap­pen next…

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