OPINION | Fans Need New Stance On EFL Trophy

The EFL looks set to continue the EFL Trophy in it’s current format, until the 2021/22 season.

On Monday 10th of December following a Checkatrade Trophy Fans Forum at Wembley Stadium, the EFL published a statement saying: “The future of the competition is secure, with an agreement in principle in place with EFL Clubs that will see the competition continue in its current format for a further three seasons, subject to an acceptable level of funding being in place.”

On that same day, EFL clubs were privately asked to indiciate to the League whether or not they would support a continuation of the Checkatrade Trophy in its current format until 2022. Several sources have privately indicated to Against League 3 that this vote was heavily in favour of retaining the format, with only a few abstentions or votes against. The exact vote count is unknown.

News of the EFL vote was broken by Carlisle United reporter Jon Colman, writing for the News & Star.

No formal vote has yet been taken but the News & Star has been told that the EFL has this week canvassed clubs for an official view on the prospect of extending the format.

United and their fellow clubs must give the league their decision by Friday.

Blues chief executive Nigel Clibbens said: “The club was only asked [on Monday] and we have got until December 14.

“When we have made our decision we will of course tell the fans what it is.”

Jon Colman –  News & Star – 11th December –EFL confident controversial Checkatrade Trophy will continue as Carlisle Utd are asked for their views

It was subsequently revealed that Carlisle United did vote in favour of continuing the format, following a vote of the directors of the club’s parent company with Clibbens saying: ““It was a split vote, as marginal as possible – one vote.”.

Clibbens said: “The position of the fans has been clear since the format was first brought forward. Nothing has changed from what I’ve seen since then, – if anything, being honest, the fan sentiment towards it has hardened and that is seen in the continuing decline in the gates.

“I see that, the fans I speak to tell me in no uncertain terms, and there’s no hiding from that.”

He added: “Those issues were heavily discussed around the boardroom table. The view taken was on a financial basis, given where we are as a club and the money involved – we needed to support, and that was the basis of the view.”

He added: “I want to make this clear, there’s nobody in the club doesn’t recognise the fan view.”

Jon Colman – News & Star – 19th December –Carlisle Utd vote in favour of controversial Checkatrade Trophy format

While credit is due to Clibbens and Carlisle for being open to the club’s supporters about the vote, their stance, and the reasons behind their decision, it is telling that despite acknowledging supporter opinion on this competition, they voted in favour of retaining it anyway.

In recent weeks the EFL has started to admit that attendances in the competition are declining, with Shaun Harvey saying as much during last week’s EFL Fan Forum. However there appears to be no shift in the EFL’s policy of attempting to change supporters opinions of the competition, rather than listed to their concerns.

The EFL has created a competition that, without the support of the Premier League, loses money for clubs and has failed to capture the imagination of supporters. As reported in detail by Martin Calladine earlier this week, the EFL has on several occasions adjusted the rules regarding reimbursements to clubs who have lost money during the fixture.

The EFL says Trophy isn’t a precursor to B-Teams entering the pyramid (“thin end of wedge”) and say the 90% vote from clubs required to make this a reality would never happen. But EFL clubs continually and alarmingly demonstrate that if Premier League cash is on offer, the opinion of supporters is irrelevant.

With the news that the EFL Trophy looks set to continue, supporters must ask what comes next. While the #BTeamBoycott has raised awareness of the issues surrounding lack of supporter representation, the boycott alone clearly isn’t enough anymore to change the stance of the EFL. Elsewhere in Europe, this type of betrayal from football’s governing bodies and authorities is simply not tolerated. Why should it be in England?

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