The Checkatrade Trophy
Formerly known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, the Checkatrade Trophy gained mixed reactions when it was announced by the Football Association at the beginning of the season that there would be a major change in the competition format.
Due to these changes in the rules, a vast amount of supporters of every club in the competition boycotted the matches.
For the 2016-2017 season, it was decided that 16 under 23- sides from the Barclays Premier League and Sky Bet Championship would be allowed to enter the competition. This was one of many things that turned this competition into a laughing stock.
Now, I get that the Football Association had every intention to use this as a way to develop young British footballers, however, the rule changes to the competition actually stopped this from happening with lower league football teams. A great example of this can be seen with my beloved Luton Town FC, who fielded a complete team made up of youth graduates and some first team players. Due to the changes in the rules, by doing this, the Hatters were fined a substantial amount. The reason being that, the team did not include a minimum amount of ‘First Team’ players, i.e, players who had played in the previous league match, they would have to be fined due to the new ruling set out by the FA.
In doing this, not only were Luton actually promoting what the competition stood for, they were actually winning against sides who fielded a strong team made up of players who had played in their team’s previous match!
I recall in one match that in the under 23- side that had been fielded, there was a 27-year-old Frenchman as well as a 30+-year-old English goalkeeper, thus not actually developing young talent at all.
This alone did not warrant the boycotting of matches. The change of format also aggrieved fans.
The competition now started with a Group Stage followed by knockout rounds, eventually leading to the final.
Now is the part where I eat a slice of humble pie…..
When the rule changes were announced, I did not like the idea one bit. In fact, I was one of those people who chose to miss the games in ‘protest’. I have since realised that yes, the competition is a farce, but why not go and support my football team against other sides in the competition?
It actually worked out that every single match in the trophy before last night’s game was when I was working a late shift at the Leisure Centre where I work. This meant that in theory, ‘boycott’ or not, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the game anyway.
Having seen us play against a strong Yeovil side last night, I have to say that I was very impressed with our performance. We now have a home tie against Oxford United in the Semi Final.
In Summary, YES, the rule changes have ruined the competition, but it has been proven that it was a poor decision to introduce u-23 teams both from the reaction of the clubs involved in the competition as well as the fact that attendances in the competition have been extremely low throughout.
On top of this, no under 23 teams actually made it any further than the quarter-finals.
Above: Hatters fan, Lewis disagrees with the competition’s rule changes, stating that there should be no u-23/B teams.
Gills fan Josh says that the competition rule changes were to give young English talent a chance, but when it comes to every match, squad rotation is not allowed.
As a neutral, Arsenal fan, Ese also disagrees with the academy team’s inclusion in this year’s competition.
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You can find me on Twitter by looking for @RobsonOReardon
You can also find the sub-account for Luton Town which is @TFFLuton