A number of polls based on the Football League's questions to their League One and League Two clubs point to supporters wanting a return to the original EFL Trophy format. This week saw the League give clubs three options for the competition known under its sponsored guise as the Checkatrade Trophy, following a year's 'pilot' of a revamped competition that included sixteen 'B Teams' from Premier League and Championship clubs that support EPPP Category One Academy systems.
The Football League is to offer its 48 League One and League Two clubs a vote in May 2017 that will allow them to choose one of three possible options - To retain the existing competition format with sixteen Academy clubs with small rule changes, to revert back to the 48 club format of League One and Two clubs only, or to scrap the competition entirely.
Via the Ciderspace Twitter and Facebook pages, we set two polls, and both have produced similar results, with a significant majority favouring a return to the previous format of 48 League One and League Two clubs, without any of the sixteen Academy clubs being invited.
For the Twitter poll, 127 fans responded, with 62 percent favouring returning to the old Trophy format. Meanwhile 32 percent called for the Trophy to be scrapped, whilst just six percent were happy to keep this season's format in place.
For the Facebook poll, 169 fans responded, with 79.3 percent favouring returning to the old Trophy format. Meanwhile 13 percent called for the Trophy to be scrapped, whilst just 7.7 percent were happy to keep this season's format in place.
There was also a wider Twitter based survey conducted by the Against League Three website, along similar lines. They had 3,057 fans respond, with 78 percent favouring returning to the old Trophy format. Meanwhile 20 percent called for the Trophy to be scrapped, whilst just 2 percent were happy to keep this season's format in place.
Yeovil Town will be one of the 48 clubs that will be entitled to vote in the League's May 2017 meeting. The club's position at the 2016 Football League AGM was to support the new competition structure, with Chairman John Fry believing that the introduction of Academy clubs would become a crowd-puller. However, the 1,081 that turned up to watch Reading Under-21s at Huish Park in January 2017 was a club competition low attendance, and the lowest crowd to watch a competitive match at home since Yeovil Town entered the Football League.
In addition, manager Darren Way repeatedly gave his support for the tournament throughout his club's six match run as far as the Quarter-Finals. Hence both Chairman and Manager would either need to reverse their position, or consider the views of other parties if they were to consider the direction a majority of fans want the competition to be taken in.
That said, a number of clubs have already publicly stated they have changed their minds over the course of the 2016-17 season. Perhaps surprisingly, one of those clubs that has done a u-turn is Oxford United, despite them getting as far as the Wembley Final earlier this month. Oxford had voted for the one year pilot, although they admitted that it had been a split board decision that pushed their vote in that direction. Despite getting a financial benefit out of it, Chairman Darryl Eales believes there were two big downsides - their club's relationship with their supporters, and an overly congested fixture list:
"My personal view is categorical – I think it was a one-year experiment and we shouldn’t do it again. We should listen to the fans on this one. It is causing division among fans who normally agree. We’ve just got to wait and see, but fans can be reassured we won’t be voting for the continuation of the experiment. It’s not just to do with under 23 teams, there’s also too many games in this year’s competition. Expanding the competition was a mistake for League One and League Two sides who are playing 46 league games and don’t get international weeks off. Throwing some more games in seems daft to me."
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