Checkatrade Trophy gets the green light

Shrimps' loanee Cole Stockton in action against Stoke City last season
Shrimps' loanee Cole Stockton in action against Stoke City last season

Morecambe will again face Academy opposition next season after clubs agreed to continue with the Checkatrade Trophy.

After a period of consultation last month, representatives from League One and Two clubs met before being asked to vote on three options for the 2017/18 season.

They were asked to either: retain the current format with amendments; revert to a 48-team knockout competition; or abandon it altogether.

Two-thirds of the clubs voted in favour of the first option with changes to the competition format for the next two seasons.

EFL chief executive, Shaun Harvey, 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.

“We wanted to ensure that League One and League Two Clubs had the opportunity to make the key decisions regarding where we take the competition in 2017/18 and beyond and I believe we have reached a revised format that benefits all parties.

“EFL clubs will have greater flexibility with regard to team selection, while still maintaining the principle that this is a first team competition for our clubs that will support the development and progression of young players. The competition will also provide significant financial rewards for all EFL Clubs, which increases with success.”

A replacement for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, the Checkatrade Trophy had something of a difficult birth last season.

The 48 League One and Two clubs were placed into 16 groups with each one also containing a Category One Academy team.

However, both Manchester clubs, along with Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Newcastle United were not among the participants.

That wasn’t the only bone of contention as the notion of developing homegrown players led to a confused selection criteria.

The league clubs had to play a minimum of five ‘first team’ players, while the academy sides had a free hand in their selection; as an example, Stoke City’s team at Morecambe featured players including Charlie Adam, Phil Bardsley, Marc Muniesa and Mame Biram Diouf.

Consequently, the group stages saw fans voting with their feet; while crowds of 686 and 827 saw Morecambe defeat Stoke and Bradford City respectively, in contrast, only 392 attended Fleetwood Town’s game against Blackburn Rovers, 457 were at Barnet-Norwich and 461 at AFC Wimbledon-Swansea City.

As a result, the competition has been altered slightly with an increased prize fund of £3m, amended selection criteria and regionalised matches until the quarter-final stage.

In terms of selection, the invited Academy teams must feature six players in their starting XI under the age of 21 as of June 30, 2017.

League One and Two clubs can now field any keeper in the competition, while the selection of outfield players rests on: participation in the previous or next first team fixture; in the top 10 for starting appearances that season in league and cup; 40 or more first team appearances; or on loan from either a Premier Legaue or Category One Academy club.