Clubs vote to keep Checkatrade Trophy in current format

Blackpool in Checkatrade Trophy action at Bloomfield Road
Blackpool in Checkatrade Trophy action at Bloomfield Road
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The EFL has confirmed the Checkatrade Trophy will continue in its current format for the 2017/18 season.

It has been revealed that 66.6% of clubs voted to keep the current format, although there will be a few amendments.

These include:

- EFL team selection criteria amended to allow increased flexibility for League One and League Two clubs

- An increase in the total competition fund to £3million (from £1.95m)

- Each group will continue to contain one invited Under-21 team with the remainder made up of EFL clubs from either League One or League Two. Groups will be formed to minimise overall travel time for EFL clubs and fans

- Invited Under-21 teams will play their Group games away from home

- Regionalisation until the Quarter-Final stage (improved from Round Two in 2016/17) to minimise overall travel time for clubs and fans

- Flexibility of fixture dates to allow teams to schedule games outside of international weeks

- 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.’

READ MORE: Blackpool vote for Checkatrade Trophy to return to old format

EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey has welcomed the support of the competition.

He 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.”

League One and Two clubs were invited to have their say on the much-maligned competition which has hit the headlines this season for all the wrong reasons.

The EFL overhauled the competition at the start of the season to include a selection of Premier League and Championship academy sides, which led to a boycott from many fans.

Attendances in the early rounds were down more than 50% on last season.

Just 760 watched Blackpool’s group game against Cheltenham at Bloomfield Road while 766 were there to see the Seasiders when they were knocked out at home to Wycombe Wanderers on penalties.

The Football League’s rationale was that the tournament, known for the previous nine seasons as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, was stagnating and the overhaul would enable bigger clubs to blood homegrown youngsters in meaningful games.

Blackpool launched a survey to canvas the opinions of its supporter base and 62% of those who took part voted in favour or returning to the old format, with the club voting accordingly.

Manager Gary Bowyer has been a fierce critic of the competition and its rules, which stipulate teams must make no more than five changes from their previous line-up.

This led to the club being fined £3,000 for breaching these rules during their game against an Everton U21 side.

It is thought the club had been penalised for substituting goalkeeper Sam Slocombe 11 minutes into their tie when Bowyer had already made five changes to his line-up.

Blackpool later made 10 changes to their team for their knockout tie against Doncaster Rovers.