FOLLOWING media reports and subsequent comment regarding changes to the format of The Football League Trophy, The Football League has clarified the nature of discussions on the matter to date.
At their recent meeting at St. George's Park, League clubs discussed a number of issues emanating from the FA Chairman’s England Commission, including changes to work permits for non-EU players, the use of artificial playing surfaces and opportunities for Under 21 sides from clubs with category 1 academies to play in The Football League Trophy.
This last matter was first discussed by clubs at their meeting in June 2014, during which they also rejected any suggestion that Premier League B teams could be permitted to play in the league pyramid as advocated by the FA Chairman in his first report.
There are no plans to consider their introduction into league football again.
However, the issue of U21 sides playing in cup football remains a matter for further debate given the ongoing challenge faced by English football of providing enough first team opportunities for young playing talent.
Clubs have been asked to consider the concept of permitting sixteen U21 teams from clubs with category 1 academies to participate in The Football League Trophy. The competition would feature 16 groups of four teams with one U21 team in each group, before a knockout stage leading to a final at Wembley Stadium.
Given the previous concerns of the League and its clubs about Premier League B teams playing in the pyramid, any final proposal would also be accompanied by a change to the League’s Articles of Association that would protect the current 72 club constitution, save for any changes to promotion/relegation that clubs wished to make.
Therefore, having provided them with this comfort, clubs willingly debated the potential commercial, financial and player development benefits of having U21 teams in this competition from 2015/16.
No formal proposals were tabled and no formal vote taken. Instead, League 1 and 2 clubs were asked to indicate whether they were content to see The Football League progress the matter, which would include discussions with the Premier League and Football Association, so that clubs can consider a full proposal at a future point.
Therefore, as yet, no club has voted in favour or against the idea of having U21 teams in The Football League Trophy, they have only indicated whether they wish to consider the matter further. Ultimately any changes to this competition will only happen with the support of League 1 and 2 clubs.