An Open Letter To Supporters Ahead Of The #BTeamBoycott

Tonight sees the first matches of the newly revamped EFL Trophy – and as such the first games of the #BTeamBoycott

Against League 3 is asking supporters not to attend games in the EFL Trophy. We ask this of all supporters, from The Premier League down to League 2, to neutrals and non-league fans. Lower league football is increasingly under threat – and the EFL Trophy sets a damaging irreversible precedent that accelerates and assists the deconstruction of the greatest football pyramid structure in the world.

Whether you choose to boycott B-Team games or the entire competition is your decision. We feel boycotting the entire competition sends a greater message – but we understand supporters when they tell us that they have nothing against playing regular teams in this competition. This is especially relevant when considering the clubs that voted against these measures.

Asking supporters to boycott is a decision that we took with a heavy heart. No-one wants to deliberately avoid going to watch their team. It’s a horrible feeling. Against League 3 has always been a campaign that was run on the wishes and direction provided by our campaign supporters. When the Trophy changes were announced, our Twitter feed and our emails were overwhelmed by fans telling us to organise the boycott of this competition – so we did.

Boycotting doesn’t make you any less loyal or any less of a true supporter. Boycotting means you reject the idea that our teams should become just another tool for the Premier League youth development conveyor belt. Boycotting means you are willing to stand up and be counted to try and improve football for all levels – not for just the select few.

Boycotting these games may have some impact on your team – but a national boycott will have serious damage to the Football League executive – a group that betrayed football supporters for a tiny payday. This vote was forced on teams – and they accepted the idea following promises that were quickly broken. Everyone watched the farcical process of waiting for invitations to be returned from the Premier League. The Football League made promises that it simply could not deliver.

When Greg Dyke’s commission first suggested B-Teams in May 2014 – Against League 3 was started by two lower league football fans that fully rejected the idea that our teams should regularly play reserve sides for the benefit of the National Team. Many agreed with us, and 34,000 supporters signed a petition against these plans. Such was the public pressure that The FA ditched the proposals.

The Football League has always been fully aware that these measures are not supported by fans of the lower leagues. We’re told that “something had to be done” – that “the trophy needed rejuvenating” and Football League executives and chairmen have fallen over themselves to announce that this isn’t “the thin end of the wedge” for B-Teams entering the pyramid structure.

Yes, something had to be done about The EFL Trophy – but attempting to “rejuvenate” a trophy using measures supporters were firmly against is incompetent at best – arrogant at worst.

Serious concerns were raised regarding the voting procedure for these EFL Trophy plans. Representatives from several clubs confirmed to AL3 that they were given minimal notice by The Football League to ask supporters what they thought of the changes.

The decline of The JPT has been steady over a number of years. Why the rush to act? Why the deliberate prevention of supporter consultation? Where is the evidence that the changes truly help the national team?

In Shaun Harvey – The Football League has a chief executive that is overseeing the slow destruction of our pyramid and competition system. Following his exploits at Bradford City and Leeds – it’s unlikely he would himself pass the “Fit & Proper Persons Test” required for owning a football club. Harvey has told government he does not support supporter ownership, been accused by OFCOM of organising harassing radio broadcasts, banned the supporters trust at Leeds from buying tickets after questioning the regime, oversaw the awful EFL rebrand and has pushed for B-Teams despite vocal fan protestations. Against League 3 continues to call for his resignation.

English football is changing. There is genuine pressure from UEFA over England’s fixture scheduling considering that European domestic and international football will see changed formats over the next few years. What supporters must do is ensure we do not get stuck with an unworkable pyramid system for the next number of years. FA Cup replays are under increasing threat. Supporters must be open to change, but they have to be the right changes that benefit the many over the few.

If you decide to protest tonight – please do so safely, peacefully and legally. Please be understanding of fans that do decide to attend and try to educate rather than berate them. Don’t forget to stay involved with your supporters trust – or consider starting one if you don’t have one.

Supporters can be a real force for positive change in football. Let’s start tonight.

Thank you for supporting AL3 and the #BTeamBoycott

James Cave
AL3 Campaign Manager

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