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Bringing academies into the EFL trophy is unfair!

When it was announced that 16 category one premier league under 21 sides would join the EFL trophy I, like every other lower league fan out there, shook my head a little and wondered, what on Earth are they going to come up with next? I’m just going to be highlighting some points to suggest that, as well as not benefiting anyone, it is completely unfair on the lower leagues.

The EFL trophy was founded in 1983 under the name of the Johnsons paint trophy and it was, and still is to this day, the only cup competition for the two lowest professional English leagues.  I, being a proud supporter of the small yet controversial MK dons, has not only seen my team compete in this trophy but also win it in 2008. Now, if you ask any English boy with aspirations of being a footballer, what they would like to achieve they would answer first with playing for England, and second with playing a cup final at Wembley. For some players who have made a career of playing the sport they love in the lower leagues, this competition could be the one chance they have of fulfilling one of those aspirations. By adding the under 21 teams into the cup they are opening this trophy to a squad of 16 to 21 year olds, who have a lot longer in their career to get the opportunity to go to Wembley.

 It’s not just the players either. Think about the fans. Fans of teams in the lower divisions have supported their club, through good times and bad, and all in the hope that they might one day win a trophy, and they can celebrate their success long into the early hours of the morning. And while I wasn’t there at Wembley in 2008 where my beloved MK Dons beat Grimsby 2-0 to lift, what is still the only cup success in our history.  I know that for our, and all other fans whose team have got to the final, the day we went to Wembley was a day we would never forget. Under 21 football doesn’t have that passionate fan base. How many Chelsea or Man City fans will be able to name the starting 11 for their academy side? Hardly any at all would be able to name you 5 players! Are you telling me that fans of Man City or Chelsea would stay up into the early hours of the morning, celebrating the fact that their academy team had won the EFL cup? Of course they wouldn’t! So by adding these teams in you are destroying a great opportunity for both the fans and the players.

The main benefit behind this change is to introduce these players to professional football. However if a club wants this to happen, isn’t this what loans are for? Considering that the hottest prospects at most clubs are in fact sent out on loan, it means that the whole idea of this is pointless. Young players would actually benefit more from going out on loan, playing 38 matches in a season, than playing in this cup, playing around 10 matches.

What can happen instead?

The idea of this got me thinking. If clubs really want to pursue this idea of having their academies play in professional cup competitions, why not add it in to the league cup? I know it sounds daft, and almost hypocritical but it is a lot better for everyone if it is added into this competition. The main reason is no-one really care about the league cup. I know it sounds bad but it is true! Premier league, and sometimes even championship teams, will consistently play a weakened side for a large proportion of this competition. Lower league teams also don’t care about this competition as it isn’t a trophy that they can realistically win, and doesn’t have the same glamour as the FA cup. Some teams in the top flight might be unhappy about potentially facing their academy side, however it would be a match they would easily win and just an easy stepping stone to the next round.

The whole idea of adding academies in is just terrible, and it will be interesting to see how this develops.

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