TRO­PHY GO-AHEAD

Clubs vote to carry on with the Check­a­trade Tro­phy next sea­son

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By John Lyons

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.

Flex­i­bil­ity

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.

In­no­va­tion

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.”

PICTURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GLORY DAY: Coven­try cel­e­brate win­ning this sea­son’s Check­a­trade Tro­phy fi­nal at Wem­b­ley

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