Date: 6th October 2017 at 8:11pm
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It appears the EFL have come up with another way of screwing loyal fans, however well intentioned their original idea may have been.

It was only at the end of last month (Click Here) I was talking about falling attendances in the EFL Cup, despite attendances being propped up by some of the sides involved, and how inadvertently the EFL bending to sponsor wishes to have draws abroad and at ‘silly o’clock times’ had only exacerbated a diminishing view of the competition from fans, especially as a growing numbers of sides (and now at all levels) seem to routinely make greater changes to the sides as they prioritise league competition.

That piece itself came on the back of plenty talking about how fans now view the EFL Trophy as a devalued competition as the EFL chased money from the Premier League by allowing Category One Academy clubs into the competition with the spirit of better developing youngsters, whilst until this year, fining League One and Two clubs who took the opportunity to blood their own youngsters in the competition as the ‘selection rules’ more favoured the top sides (hence seeing seasoned internationals have a run out) compared to the selection constraints clubs who the competition was designed for, had to operate under.

For the EFL Trophy in particular, the EFL made the admission that they had manually manipulated the group stage draw to ensure that two main local rivals had not been drawn against each other (Click Here) whilst having a ‘local’ feel to each group to minimise fan travel.

Again, to minimise travel as an overall aim can be fully understood but some sides saw their ball number removed for the pot creations to make it physically impossible for some local sides to face each other – although EFL boss Shaun Harvey did explain that it was at the request of Portsmouth and Southampton.

But it’s still not really in the spirit of an open draw or competition is it?

The EFL have now bettered that, but not on the basis of minimising fan disruption or safety, fan disruption was the aim apparently – in order to create better atmospheres and gate revenue.

The Mirror were one of many to report earlier this week that EFL boss Harvey had admitted that ‘conscious scheduling decisions’ had been taken with this year’s fixtures lists to prioritise long away day journeys and ensure they went into the midweek calendar.

The paper report that Harvey has admitted midweek ties have been basically written off this season as they prioritise weekend games with a better overall gate return – gate return translates as money for clubs after all.

The fixtures in midweek ahead of the October international break saw Norwich fans make a 456 round trip to Middlesbrough, and they were far from alone as Wolves fans have faced trips to Hull (280 miles) as well as a tie against Sheffield United. Wolves trip to Carrow Road – overall seven hours – was another involving lengthy trips to Millwall and Leeds.

It’s not just Championship sides effected, Plymouth faced a 570 mile trip to see the Wigan game, and Stevenage faced a 541 trip to Carlisle United. I could continue to list others but I’m sure the point has been made.

The Mirror seem to lean on a BBC Radio report where Harvey presumably addressed a constant slide this year in midweek attendances.

‘We make that scheduling choice to get bigger games at weekends because that provides better atmosphere and increases gate revenue for clubs.’

Funny how the word ‘atmosphere’ goes ahead of ‘increases gate revenue for clubs’ isn’t it. A cynic would say be honest and put them in the right order because if atmosphere is what you are after, there’s nothing better than an evening match for that under the floodlights!

Maybe I’m being nostalgic, or being a fan, maybe I simply have a different perspective as all I see are fans shafted left right and centre in the search of ‘sponsor pleasure’ and ‘increased revenue’.

I say tomato, clearly others say ‘give me the money!’.

‘The flip side is that those games that are at a distance have to go into midweek. It is a deliberate act – but the reason for it is to ensure we get bigger crowds at weekends rather than lower crowds in the midweek.’

With a new £600million deal struck with Sky Sports recently, with words like ‘revolutionary’ thrown around in the PR guff, if you expect fans to swallow the line ‘…to ensure we get bigger crowds at weekends rather than lower crowds in the midweek’ when you’ve already admitted ‘lower crowds in the midweek’ are a natural consequence of the decision you took, frankly you’re having a laugh.

How about sensible away scheduling, with longer journeys set for the weekend – you know a weekend, people have more time to spare without worrying about work?

Maybe use some of that £600million on midweek away travel solutions that make it affordable and convenient for fans to make the trip so you grow that (cough) ‘atmosphere’ in midweek games and then you know, maybe do the same for weekend trips to ensure they continue to be well attended?

Stupid me, far cheaper and simpler to ask the regular and loyal away dayers to bend over and take one for the team isn’t it.

Some would accuse the EFL of not thinking this TV deal through as they salivated over the revenue offer but I don’t agree, don’t forget the new deal allows clubs to ‘stream’ any game not shown at 3pm on a Saturday.

So whilst originally promoting the ease to which fans could watch midweek action on the telebox, we now find out that ‘conscious scheduling decisions’ have been made that will inevitably make midweek games dull, quiet affairs – but hey clubs are still quids in as fans pay for online access to the matches.

I’d say it’s been expertly thought through – only problem is once you break the habit of attending for a fan, it’s incredibly hard to get them back again.

That doesn’t benefit the clubs long term…that benefits only the television companies and there will become a point where ‘fan attendance’ becomes inconsequential to club revenue, and when the TV companies truly have all the power…do the EFL think TV deals and revenue will continue to grow?