EFL Checkatrade Trophy to continue and include Premier League and Championship Under-21 teams

Action from the Cobblers' Checkatrade Trophy clash with West Ham United Under-23s at Sixfields last season
Action from the Cobblers' Checkatrade Trophy clash with West Ham United Under-23s at Sixfields last season

The Cobblers have accepted the vote that will see the 16 invited Under-21 teams from the Premier League and Championship continue to play in the EFL Checkatrade Trophy for the next two seasons.

It was revealed earlier this week that in a vote of the 48 clubs in leagues one and two, Town had voted to scrap the unpopular competition altogether.

Kelvin Thomas

Kelvin Thomas

The experiment to allow age-group teams from the Premier League and Championship to join the competition last season was seen as a huge failure.

The new group stage format didn’t go down well, with poor attendances blighting the competition, and Town chairman Kelvin Thomas said earlier this week the club had voted to ‘abandon’ the competition, which was one of four options open to the clubs.

But it has today been confirmed they they were in the minority, with 66.6% of clubs who voted going for Option One, which is ‘Retaining the current format with amendments’ and as a result, the format – with some key amendments’

Those amendments are quite significant, and include a change to the player qualification rules for selection for league one and two clubs, extra prize-money, no away trips to the Premier League or Championship clubs, more regionalised groups and more flexibility on fixture dates.

The good news is that I think there have been changes from last year so that some of the issues have been addressed and we will use it to benefit the club as best we can

Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas

Thomas has confirmed that although the vote didn’t go the way the Cobblers wanted, now that the decision has been taken Town will fully support the competition.

“Whilst we didn’t vote for this particular outcome, as I said prior to the vote, now that it has been completed we will support the competition in the decided format,” said Thomas.

“The good news is that I think there have been changes from last year so that some of the issues have been addressed and we will use it to benefit the club as best we can.”

One of the most significant changes to the competition format for next season is the number of first teamers that League clubs will have to play, as well as who actually qualifies as a first team player.

Last season, League clubs had to field six of the first team selected for their previous or following league game, but now they must field four qualifying outfield players in the starting 11 - and a qualifying player is now simply anybody who has made 40 or more first team appearances in their career, or are on loan from a Premier League or Category One Academy club.

The competition will now also be regionalised until the quarter-final stage, and the teams from the Premier League and Championship will play all of their group games away from home.

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

Key format changes:

EFL team selection criteria amended to allow increased flexibility for League One and League Two clubs. Clubs can now name four qualifying outfield players from ten and a qualifying player is now any player who has made 40 or more first team appearances in their career or are on loan from a Premier League or Category One Academy club.

An increase in the total competition fund to £3 million.

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.

The identity of the 16 invited clubs will be announced by the EFL in June, with the group stage drawn in July