This is a page where I express my thoughts in more detail, sometimes leaving it open for you to discuss. Feel free to contact me about them if they've particularly hit a nerve.
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Thought 4.41: 14 June 2016 - Why the EFL Trophy and Premier League B Teams Is A Massive Mistake
Whilst attention during this time of year has been focussed on the Euro 2016 football tournament in France, back home in England a different sort of revolution (most likely not televised) is underfoot, and rather sneakily decided last Friday. What was formerly the Johnstone's Paint Trophy for League One and Two sides and an incentive to get to Wembley and win a trophy is now the EFL Trophy, and the proposal on the table for those football clubs concerned was whether to include Premier League "B" teams as part of an expanded competition. The vote was yes.
That vote alone is concerning. Yes, I am a Manchester City supporter and have been all my life. I am in the lucky position of seeing us come back from the days of struggling in would now be League One all the way to seeing Sergio Agüero scoring that goal in 2012. However, I also do care about the whole football family. I've supported Non-League Day and been to see different non-league teams. I went to see Salford City in the FA Cup back in 2009 way before the "Class of 92" got involved. I've also really enjoyed seeing AFC Wimbledon come back from the dead and rise to their now League One position where they'll now play Milton Keynes Dons - the irony on that isn't lost.
For me, the league pyramid system and the fairness of that system is what gives all football fans a chance to live the dream, a chance to be able to really get behind the team come rain, shine, snow and what other weather gets thrown at you. A chance to get up the league if the team plays well. And most of all, a chance of a trophy for the lower two league divisions also allows for a chance to dream about playing at Wembley and winning some silverware. I'm sure if you ask any Doncaster Rovers fan what that was like when they won I am sure it'll still remain of one of their happy memories of the recent era, along with that epic last minute goal following a penalty miss by the opposition at Brentford to be promoted, and as champions at that.
Whilst no sponsorship remains, the Football League went about the whole issue of including Premier League B Teams the wrong way. They didn't take into account the considerable opposition of the fans - not just from those clubs but from Premier League fans like me who want transparency, fairness, and a protection of the pyramid system, and a more level playing field for all. They also appear to have amended their own AGM agenda rules so that instead of a 90% majority vote, that percentage was lower to get it approved. Shocking stuff. Whether that be the pressure of the Premier League or the possible selfish attitude of some boards of the lower league teams, it beggars belief.
It is perhaps noteworthy to praise those clubs who clearly stood for what they believe in and voted against the proposal made last week. I'm sure if you are a fan of the likes of AFC Wimbledon, Accrington Stanley, Bristol Rovers, Fleetwood Town, Gillingham, Hartlepool United, Luton Town, Morecambe, Port Vale or Portsmouth those boards did the right thing and saw the fallacy of the proposal for what it was. It also shows that particularly in some of those cases where the fans are an integral part of the club that they listened to those fans and acted in the interests of them too.
What the revamped EFL Trophy will also do is actually add more fixtures than the previous format, not less. So the whole point of supposedly reducing fixture congestion is a fallacy, as long as it suits the Premier League teams involved to get their B sides in a competitive game. Also, here's a thing. It's called the EFL Trophy, right? And so shouldn't such a named trophy only involve teams who actually play in the English Football League (EFL) in those lower divisions? You'd think so.
And it's not as if those in youth academies in Premier League teams don't get the chance to play competitive football either. Those teams who qualify for the Champions League have their under 19 academy sides playing in the UEFA Youth League the same week as those fixtures. There's still the reserve team leagues that happen during the course of the season, rebranded now as the Under 21 and Under 18 Leagues 1 and 2 for those younger players. And of course let's not forget the FA Youth Cup either, and winners of that have gone to produce great players too, without the need for them to appear in other tournaments.
The greed of some Premier League clubs is one thing, but the meek surrender to those clubs by those in League One and League Two, especially those that backed the proposal, is just not on. If you're a fan of those clubs I am sure you are despairing at your clubs' board for not taking your views as the fans into consideration. I would also imagine that this whole "it's just for one season" thing doesn't wash either. For me, once it's been introduced and let in this way, it's a very hard thing to pull back and one certainly that will be noticeable to see what happens during the course of the season.
So, like many of you, I am saying No To B-Teams and will be backing those fans who will be serving the B-Team Boycott and staying away from those games. The integrity of the whole football pyramid structure and the fairness that brings needs to be kept that way, away from the interfering Premier League chairman who don't see the bigger picture, and the lack of action from the Football Association also needs to be brought into question at the same time - it's almost as if they have supported this through the back door without the need to say anything.