OPINION: ‘Lower league clubs drawing the short straw?’

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With the massive unpopularity in this year’s Football League Trophy, is a campaign against the lower leagues by the Premier League becoming more evident?

Attendances have fallen to record club lows so far in this season’s Checkatrade Trophy, which goes to show the clear fan disapproval at the new set up introduced by the Premier League.

A group stage period with Premier League and Championship under-23 teams was introduced into a new system, supposedly to aid youth player development in testing them in real match scenarios against first team XIs.

The idea is all very well and good on paper, but have they thought about the fans? A competition which already had little fan support, when known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, now has even less due to the controversial decisions made by the Premier League.

Fans were left disgruntled with the idea when it was first introduced and their disapproval only grew. The idea of 28-year-old Antony Stokes and 29-year-old Liam Feeney turning out for Blackburn U23s in a tournament designed to help young players develop just seems ridiculous to most fans.

The hypocrisy of the competition also to hand maximum fines to several football league clubs who broke competition rules to field youth players and help their development has left clubs and fans furious.

The rule breached was rule 7.3, which states that no more than five players can be changed in the starting line up from the previous league game.

Their attempt to ‘hijack’ the Football League Trophy is not the only example of the Premier League taking advantage of lower league teams. The Elite Player Performance Plan brought in by the Premier League, which essentially allows category one academies to more easily and cheaply purchase young players from lower ranked academies, has also had Football League fans claiming foul-play.

The ideas of a League 3 and Premier League side B teams being introduced to the Football League has sparked mass controversy amongst fans, with the ideas alluding to a clear vision which would move the teams at the top higher and push teams at the bottom lower.

Obviously the intentions of the Premier League may be all good and beneficial towards young player development, however it cannot be argued against for the majority of the time, it is the lower ranked clubs which are drawn the short straw.

In regards to the Checkatrade Trophy, decisions will be made by the 20 Premier League clubs collectively and the 72 Football League clubs collectively in the later in the year, where both organisations must vote in favour of the format for it to continue next season.

Although with its unpopularity this season and the low attendances, the Football League voting in favour of the format is difficult to imagine.