Clubs vote to carry on with the Checkatrade Trophy next season
INCREASED prize money and a relaxation in player eligibility rules have encouraged League One and Two clubs to back the controversial Checkatrade Trophy.
This season’s one-season trial was largely considered a flop as angry fans boycotted the competition over the decision to allow 16 Category One Academy sides to enter the competition and a host of clubs were unhappy at being fined for breaching the selection criteria.
At a meeting last month, clubs were given three options for next season – retain the current format with amendments, revert to a 48-team knockout competition or axe the tournament.
In the event, two thirds of the clubs who voted did so for the first option and, as a result, the fomat – with some key amendments - will be retained for the next two seasons.
One of the keys to the clubs supporting the current concept was undoubtedly financial. Prize money this season was almost £2m, but next season it will be £3m.
This is largely because each of the 48 EFL teams will receive a participation fee of £20,000. Prize money through the initial group stage and the subsequent rounds remains the same.
The other big plus for League One and Two clubs is that they will have greater flexibility in who they can pick without fear of being fined.
In the coming campaign, EFL clubs can play any goalkeeper and four qualifying outfield players from ten.
The criteria for qualifying outfield players has been extended to players who: 1. Have started the previous or following first team fixture. 2. Are in the top ten players at the club for starting appearances in league and domestic cup competitions for the season. 3. Have made 40 or more first team appearances in their career. 4. Are on loan from either a Premier League or Category 1 Academy club.
Luton Town were one of the clubs who fell foul of the selection criteria last season, after deciding to play more of their young prospects. They were fined £15,000.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones said: “We are pleased that our feedback has been taken on board, with the relaxation of the selection rules allowing us to play the players we choose to.
“We strongly feel our young players deserve the same opportunity as those from Category One Academies.”
As part of the proposals, the selection criteria for invited under 21 teams will remain as ‘six players from the starting 11 must be under the age of 21 as at 30 June 2017’.
Other changes for the coming season include groups being formed to minimise overall travel time for EFL clubs and fans, invited under-21 teams will play all their group games away from home, there will be regionalisation until the quarter-final stage and also flexibility of fixture dates to allow teams to schedule games outside of international weeks.
EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “The history of the EFL Trophy is one of new ideas and innovation, but at its heart has always been the belief that this is an opportunity for League One and League Two clubs to taste cup success.
“I am therefore delighted to see the backing the Checkatrade Trophy has received from our clubs for the next two seasons, following a full and comprehensive review of this year’s pilot format.
“We wanted to ensure that League One and League Two clubs had the opportunity to make the key decisions regarding where we take the competition in 2017/18 and beyond and I believe we have reached a revised format that benefits all parties.
“EFL clubs will have greater flexibility with regard to team selection, while still maintaining the principle that this is a first team competition for our clubs that will support the development and progression of young players.
“The competition will also provide significant financial rewards for all EFL clubs, which increases with success.”
GLORY DAY: Coventry celebrate winning this season’s Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley