Cobblers vote to ‘abandon’ the EFL Checkatrade Trophy

Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas
Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas

The Cobblers have voted for the EFL Checkatrade Trophy to be scrapped.

All Football League clubs have been asked what they feel is the best way forward for the much-maligned competition, which last season saw the introduction of 16 under-23 teams from Premier League and Championship clubs.

Fewer than 1,000 supporters turned up at Sixfields for the Checkatrade Trophy clash with West Ham United

Fewer than 1,000 supporters turned up at Sixfields for the Checkatrade Trophy clash with West Ham United

It was played in a group basis, before the top two from each group went into a knockout stage, with the final eventually seeing Coventry City beat Sky Bet League One rivals Oxford United in the final at Wembley.

The competition prior to last season, in the main, been a knockout competition for the 48 clubs in leagues one and two.

Following criticism of rules over selection for the League clubs, and low crowds in the group and early knockout stages, the EFL were keen to make changes, and have been seeking opinion from all the clubs involved on the future of the competition.

They presented clubs with the following options for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns:

Cobblers fans at the Checkatrade Trophy match at Coventry City

Cobblers fans at the Checkatrade Trophy match at Coventry City

1 - 64-team format to include 16 invited teams

2 - 48-team format on a straight knockout basis

3 - 48-team format with a group stage followed by knockout rounds

4 - Abandon the competition

Just 2,085 fans turned up at the Ricoh for Coventry v Cobblers

Just 2,085 fans turned up at the Ricoh for Coventry v Cobblers

After much consideration and extensive consulation with the supporters, Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas has revealed today that the Cobblers have voted for option four - to abandon the competition.

“It was clear from attendances for the majority of the competition that the experiment to include Category 1 Academy Premier League and Championship under 23 teams last season wasn’t overly popular,” said Thomas.

“Even in previous years, when only league one and league two clubs entered, the competition struggled for popularity and for us it was important we sought the views of our supporters before we voted.

“The March meeting of the Supporters Advisory Group gave us that opportunity.

“We went in to that meeting with an open mind and had a long discussion about the pros and cons, the financial advantages and disadvantages of the various options on the table.

“We then took those comments and continued discussions with other stakeholders, more fans and internally about which direction was best for us.

“The consensus of those discussions was that there was certainly very little support for the competition to continue beyond the trial period with the invited clubs, so that option was discounted pretty early on.

“The discussion then was basically between scrapping it or going back to the original 48 team format.

“I think a lot of people, like myself, asked themselves what impact would it have on Northampton Town if we didn’t have an EFL Trophy game next season, and I’m not sure many of us could come up with a compelling argument for it to remain in that format.

“The main reason to trial the competition last year with invited clubs was to revitalise an already struggling competition, so returning to that format seemed a backward step.

“That left only one real option which was Option 4 to abandon it, and that was the way that we voted.

“I will say that I do feel the EFL have proposed positive changes to the format for this upcoming season which certainly made it more attractive not only financially, but also from a player development point of view, but we felt the damage had already probably been done in the eyes of the fans and the feedback we received was that it was going to be very tough to get any support for it within our fan base.

“We certainly also appreciate the desire to work closer with the Premier League and do appreciate all the support the Premier League gives EFL clubs through various initiatives including Solidarity Payments, Youth Development and Football in the Community.

“We feel that this is a very important relationship and one that needs continual balanced development, however we just felt this possibly wasn’t the right channel to do that.”

Although the Cobblers have voted to sc rap the competition, Thomas made it clear that whatever the result of the vote, the club will abide by the decision.

“All of the above being said, we also feel very strongly that the club is better within a collective body like the EFL and whatever way the vote goes we will be fully supportive of the outcome.

“If the competition is scrapped we will concentrate on the League, Carabao Cup and FA Cup competitions as normal, however if it is decided by a majority of clubs to continue in either format we will approach it positively with professionalism and integrity, and we would be asking our fans to do the same and come out and support the team and the competition.

“What this does highlight for me is the way we have used our fan engagement to come up with a more collective view.

“We pride ourselves on our communication and this decision shows that it is a two way process and there was a very constructive dialogue around the club as a whole. We now wait to see the result of the vote alongside our fellow EFL clubs.”

The Cobblers failed to get past the group stage last season.

Then manager Rob Page made as many changes as the rules would allow for all of the games that saw Town lose 3-0 at home to Wycombe Wanderers, 3-1 at Coventry City and then draw 1-1 at Sixfields against West Ham United’s youngsters.

Attendances for the two Sixfields encounters were just 1,408 versus Wycombe, and a pitiful 951 against the Hammers.