OXFORD United’s hope that the Checkatrade Trophy would revert back to its original format have been quashed.
The English Football League revealed yesterday that two thirds of clubs voted to keep the competition in a similar arrangement for the next two seasons, but with minor tweaks.
United chairman Darryl Eales told the Oxford Mail earlier this week the club voted to revert back to the 48-team set-up.
But an ‘overwhelming majority’ of clubs wanted to retain this season’s format of 16 invited Category One academy sides.
“We can confirm that we were one of the 11 clubs that voted to revert to a 48-team knock-out competition,” Eales told United’s website.
“However, it is a democratic process and we will abide by the vote.”
Supporters’ trust OxVox were frustrated more clubs did not take United’s stance.
“We’re very disappointed with the EFL decision and surprised that so may clubs appear to have ignored the facts from last season and also the wishes of their own fans,” they said.
“We are, of course, very pleased that OUFC listened to fans and voted for a return to the old format. It is a great shame that more clubs didn’t follow suit.
“We’re sure that this will create significant debate and potential protest from fans across the country and as OxVox, we’ll be liaising with other supporters' trusts during the summer.”
A statement from EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey welcomed the support for the competition.
He said: “The history of the EFL Trophy is one of new ideas and innovation, but at its heart has always been the belief that this is an opportunity for League One and League Two clubs to taste cup success.
“I am therefore delighted to see the backing the Checkatrade Trophy has received from our clubs for the next two seasons, following a full and comprehensive review of this year’s pilot format.
“EFL Clubs will have greater flexibility with regard to team selection, while still maintaining the principle this is a first team competition for our clubs that will support the development and progression of young players.”
Eales said United’s stance was a “stupid decision” financially, but said on principle the club stuck to its guns.
He explained: “As a fan I can’t conceive of a final between Oxford United and Leicester under 21s – that would hold no credibility to me.
“You are devaluing the competition.
“I think we’re better off going back to 48 teams, where the prize is getting to Wembley as a club.”
THE MAIN CHANGES
- The prize fund is increased from £1.95m to £3m – the rise predominantly made up by a payment of £20,000 to each club as a participation fee.
- Fixtures will be regionalised up to the quarter-final stage, a change from last season when it was round two.
- A club now has to field four qualifying outfield players rather than five. Clubs can play any goalkeeper.
- Alternative dates are available for all group stage matches, rather than all being scheduled during international breaks.
- All Category One teams will play all group matches away - last season they played one at their home ground.
- There is, however, no change in criteria for the 16 invited teams - they still have to play six players under the age of 21 as on June 30.