“If you think the future for your club is to play Premier League ‘B’ Teams in competitive matches, then your club probably has no future”.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who follows my Twitter account @FACupFactfile that I am vehemently opposed to the inclusion of Premier League and Championship Club’s ‘B’ teams being involved in EFL Trophy where they will be pitted in a competitive match against three EFL first teams. But why is it I am so vociferously and passionately against this proposal?
Even if it is true that this is not the thin end of the wedge for these B Teams to be incorporated into the Football League structure (methinks they doth protest too much), there is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that clubs with proud histories of a hundred plus years of Football League involvement should now have to face other sides made up of the young players of what happen to be current higher league clubs, players who in past times would likely as not have been playing for those self-same EFL clubs.
Mr Arkwright and Mr Deakin, founding fathers of the Football League’s oldest club Notts County, must be turning in their graves at the decision of the current board to allow their first team to face another side’s B team in a competitive match. Notts County, a founding member of the Football League and one of only 10 ever present members in League football, have been drawn to play against Sunderland B Team. Sunderland didn’t even join the Football League until two seasons later, and now Notts County have to face their B team in competitive match. How insulting to the fans, how degrading to the club.
Another founder member of the Football League, Bolton Wanderers, will have the ignominy of facing the B team of a fellow founder team, Everton, the first team of which they beat 6-2 in their fourth ever competitive league match, one of the oldest competitive fixtures in the world. And, as if this was not galling enough for the fans of Bolton Wanderers, it was something that was voted for with relish by the club’s board members. All for the sake of a minuscule portion of the Premier League’s outlandish wealth.
Of course, it’s not about the money is it? It’s all about developing the youth of England so future generations can bask in the glory of European and World titles. Of course it is, that’s why so many Premier League clubs who own the cream of the current England youth players do not want to take part. All those EFL clubs who voted for this abomination of a competition who now face Brighton or Reading reserves have got their just desserts. Good.
And worst of all, despite the protestations of fans up and down the country, Richard Scudamore and Shaun Harvey continue to spout that this format was required to help English football and ensure the former JPT competition could survive, and that it is only a trial which will be reviewed at the end of the season. But there are so many different elements introduced to the format that it will be impossible to tell why it was a success or not.
Anyone worth their salt who successfully trials anything knows that you have to isolate each individual point you are trialling. And you need to be clear about your measures of success and failure, with subsequent proposed actions depending upon the outcomes you experience. And, of course, we have no statement as to what success or failure means from Mr Scudamore or Mr Harvey, and what would constitute keeping it or scrapping it in 2017.
So when the EFL Trophy fails, and it will fail, we won’t know for sure if it is because of the format itself, or because of the inclusion of B teams, or because of the awful definition of regionalisation, or because fans stayed away or because TV stations didn’t want to cover it. What we will know, because current practice proves this to be case, is that those who are, unfortunately for football, in charge of it in this country, will say whatever it is needs to be said to get whatever it is they want. And what they want is usually financially driven and has absolutely nothing to do with the health and benefit of football.
Money first, football nowhere is what caused this competition to come to fruition, and by voting for it the EFL chairmen may very well have voted their own club out of existence, maybe not by this Christmas, but by a Christmas in the not too distant future.