Date: 16th November 2016 at 11:53pm
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A number of clubs have been fined for featuring non ‘full strength’ sides in this year’s failing EFL Trophy.

Replacing the old Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with a new format involving Premier League and Championship Under 23 sides, Luton Town and Portsmouth have been fined £15,000, Bradford City, Blackpool, Bristol Rovers, MK Dons, Millwall, Charlton, Peterborough United, Sheffield United and Southend United have now all been fined £3000 and Fleetwood Town have been slapped with a £5000 fine.

The rules state that teams have to field five players who started the previous match or the following match, or alternatively five who had made the most appearances this season and these sides, in some cases by their own admission about the stupidity of the new format, didn’t.

Clubs have the right to appeal and they will no doubt appeal partly on the basis that given the EFL Trophy was sold on Academy and youth development, why should League One and League Two clubs be punished for doing just that with a number of debutants on display, and quite a few youth players being given a chance along with 15 year olds getting pitch time or at least the experience of being on the bench.

Compared with some Academy sides – the switch in the media to calling them Under 21 sides had been noted – who played internationals, experienced first team members and more household names was also very well noted by fans across the country and completely devaluing what the ‘spirit’ of the reformatted competition was suppose to achieve…of course Academy sides invited aren’t being fined because they can play four overage players can’t they.

The Football League said in a statement that they considered ‘mitigating circumstances’ and considered ‘transgressions that were not within the spirit of the rules’ and that’s a fascinating statement…’spirit’.

Inviting Under 23 Academy sides into the competition to give greater experience to Under 23 players and the EFL boasting that so far the competition has given experience to more than 200 Under 21 players, but the ‘spirit’ isn’t harmed by players in their 30’s featuring completely within the rules – but we’re now fining L1 and L2 sides for giving their youth MORE game time?

Really – does nobody else spot the absolutely idiocy of that comparison?

I dealt with the ‘spirit’ being respected previously – Click Here – in a network piece, and equally on news of Luton being fined originally I also talked about the stupidity in punishing sides at L1 and L2 level for doing the very thing the reformatting of the competition was sold on – Click Here – and considering Luton gaffer Nathan Jones discussed the potential fine following their victory over West Bromwich Albion and said.

‘If anyone wants to fine us for that group of youngsters, I’ll pay the fine myself, because it would be an absolute disgrace. Premier League sides are allowed to develop their youngsters. I’m telling you, ours are better. Why can’t we play ours? Anyone who’s involved – the EFL, Checkatrade, the FA – who wants to fine us, watch the game because you lot could be recognising these Luton youngsters sooner than you think.’

For those who don’t remember, in that game he selected two more youngsters than Academy sides are required to pick, they took a two nil victory and West Brom’s side included Boaz Myhill, Jonas Olsson, Craig Gardner and Callum McManaman – Jones also gave five players their debut in the match.

So for Luton in particular, they are being fined for respecting the very spirit and meaning of the competition more than others, which is youth development now!?!

Yes that’s a transgression isn’t it – doing what it says on the tin and what it was sold on.

Luton chief executive Gary Sweet is quoted by the BBC responding to the fine – which comes out of their £20,000 for progressing through to the next stage – and pointing out that he doesn’t see why Luton should be effectively ‘paying fees to get our youngsters experience’ when the very competition is supposed to be about youth development.

‘We entered those teams with our eyes wide open and we accept that we would be fined for doing so. We are staggered, however, that we have been fined the maximum amount for our first offence, which was winning away from home at a club from the division above with half-a-dozen first-team regulars in their team. We played nine graduates of our academy in that game at Gillingham, and seven against a West Brom side containing four players, two of whom who were internationals and had been transferred for several million pounds, and still beat both.’

With record low attendances for the competition, plenty of social media campaigns against the competition and well – its not doing very well in the eyes of L1 and L2 fans is it – surely the Football League should be more concerned by other things and not nit picking about clubs giving youth a chance when all we hear from them is giving Premier League and Championship youth a chance!

Typically clubs still involved in the competition have been told they must feature ‘full strength’ sides for the remainder of the competition by the Football League, but you wouldn’t expect anything else would you.

Now I must say, I’m not a fan of any of the clubs fined, I’m not a fan of any of the clubs involved this year – but the EFL should be taking a long hard look in the mirror as this competition is just becoming more of a laughing stock following each and every game, and the EFL don’t seem to realise their part in this.

If Academy sides can have four overage players, fair’s fair – EFL involved clubs should also only be required to play four overage players or four players involved in the last or following fixture.

Anything else is a nonsense and it seems only L1 and L2 clubs and fans in general seem to realise this!