Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer says he was “staggered” to hear the club had been fined for breaching Checkatrade Trophy rules and has joined calls for the competition to be reviewed.
The Seasiders and neighbours Fleetwood Town were among 12 clubs fined for fielding ‘weakened’ sides in the controversial tournament.
Blackpool were fined £3,000 because of Bowyer’s team selection for the final group game at Everton last week, even though the Pool boss obeyed the rules by naming five players in his starting 11 who had started the previous match (against Kidderminster in the FA Cup).
However, Bowyer withdrew one of those five, goalkeeper Sam Slocombe, after just 11 minutes at Goodison Park to give 18-year-old Myles Boney some vital first-team experience.
Bowyer said: “I was staggered really. The rules only say I have to play five from the previous game – they don’t tell me when I can make a substitution.
“We played against Kidderminster on Sunday and had to play Everton the following Tuesday. We picked up injuries against Kidderminster but we still conformed and played five players, which was putting them at risk.
“Yet on the Sunday I could have made 11 changes for the FA Cup. No disrespect to the Checkatrade Trophy but I think the FA Cup is held in higher regard and always will be.”
The Pool boss has been critical of the revamped competition, which now includes Under-21 sides from Premier League and Championship clubs.
And Bowyer said his reservations have now been justified. He added: “We’re not getting the attendances for the competition and now we’re getting fined on top, so it is a double whammy.
“Everton didn’t field a full- strength team either. I went to watch them the Friday before and four of their players weren’t playing (against Blackpool) because they went away on international duty.
“We organise it for the sake of the Premier League boys and yet they arrange the game for a week when their players are on international duty.
“It’s crazy and the whole thing is just ridiculous. They need to put their hands up and admit they made a mistake.
“All the managers and coaches I’ve spoken to have said exactly the same as me. If that many people can see it coming, then some people have got to look at themselves.”
Bowyer also warned the Football League that managers’ jobs could be at risk if the competition carries on in its current format.
He said: “Managers make those changes to protect their players for games they value as more important – league games. Those games are what managers get judged on.”