Thursday 22 March 2018

Harvey backs Checkatrade Trophy format as Spurs and Man City enter academy sides

English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey spearheaded the drastic changes to the Checkatrade Trophy last season.
English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey spearheaded the drastic changes to the Checkatrade Trophy last season.

English Football League chief Shaun Harvey believes the Checkatrade Trophy now holds "genuine appeal" for Premier League clubs as Manchester City and Tottenham accepted an invitation to enter their academy sides into the competition.

Both clubs turned down the opportunity last season but join Premier League champions Chelsea in agreeing to enter their under-21 teams alongside League One and League Two sides for 2017/18, a move which was implemented last year to mixed success.

Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United have once again turned down the chance to enter the tournament, with only category one academies receiving an invite.

While fans stayed away in their droves for much of last year's competition, over a third of the EFL clubs voted to retain the format for the next two seasons with few amendments.

EFL chief executive Harvey, who backed the changes last season and said they would listen to the clubs involved in an attempt to make those alterations take shape, believes the presence of more top sides is proof the process is working.

"I was delighted when EFL clubs collectively backed the competition following a full and comprehensive review of last season's pilot format, and we can see from the increasing interest from Category One Academies that the Checkatrade Trophy has genuine appeal," he said.

"The competition provides a unique challenge to young players and seasoned professionals alike.

"I strongly believe players from League One and League Two clubs will look forward to taking on some of the country's brightest prospects, who will themselves learn a lot from participating in a first-team competition."

Now City and Spurs will enter their own academy outfits into the group stages, which will be formed to keep travel time down for supporters and will see the 16 youth sides play all of their group games away from home.

The invitations are extended to the 16 teams who finished highest in the Premier League table last year and hold category one status.

Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Watford and Hull miss out as they are not classed as category one, while Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United rejected the chance to participate.

The 12 remaining top-flight clubs from last season, including relegated pair Middlesbrough and Sunderland, will all be involved.

So to will Sky Bet Championship winners Newcastle and fellow promoted side Brighton, with Reading and Fulham completing the line-up of academy sides.

Coventry beat Oxford to win last season's Checkatrade Trophy in front of 74,434 fans at Wembley.

The revamped competition came in for harsh criticism earlier in the season with sparse crowds and protests against in the involvement of the Premier League youth teams.

But two thirds of League One and League Two clubs voted in favour of retaining the format, rather than reverting to the previous straight knockout tournament or scrapping the competition completely.

Several amendments were announced to the format, including an increase in competition funding to £3million, regionalisation of fixtures being in place until the quarter-final stages and the ability to play matches outside of international weeks on the calendar.

It was the scheduling of the fixtures and the clash with international dates that played a major part in both Tottenham and Manchester City opting out last season.

But now it will be hoped that their presence in the tournament will serve as a shot in the arm for the group stages, which will be drawn in July and will begin the week commencing August 28.

Press Association

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