Comment: Farcical EFL Trophy deserves boycotting

Pompey fans have a decision to make whether or not to boycott the EFL Trophy this season    Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey fans have a decision to make whether or not to boycott the EFL Trophy this season Picture: Joe Pepler
Plymouth Argyle's Remi Matthews. Picture: PA Images

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The EFL Trophy is a farce.

And Mark Catlin has done well to remain so composed in his assessment of it.

The fact Pompey’s chief executive vowed in today’s The News that the Blues will remain professional and take an active part in the competition shows he has taken the higher ground.

I personally feel the EFL Trophy should be treated with the contempt it has shown all lower-league clubs and boycotted.

I have a feeling Catlin privately feels the same way!

It’s a complete and utter nonsense and the Blues were against it from the start.

The club, led by Catlin, campaigned against the overhaul of the former Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, which now allows elitist under-23 sides (category one) to feature.

Embarrassingly, though, the primary reason for its creation – a supposed overhaul to English football’s youth structure to develop more talents for the national side – has been undermined completely.

That’s after leading Premier League academies, including both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool, declined to participate owing to scheduling concerns.

Instead, Pompey have the delights of hosting Reading’s youngsters at Fratton Park in Group A of the southern section, alongside the visit of Bristol Rovers and trip to Yeovil Town.

No disrespect to the Royals’ youngsters, who will no doubt be looking forward to playing at Fratton Park, but as a fixture it is about as alluring as that protracted pre-season trip to Burnham.

Any Blues fans thinking their club could use this distraction from a League Two promotion bid as a great opportunity to develop some of their own youngsters – the only possible use for the competition – can also think twice.

That’s after the newly-rebranded EFL confirmed clubs fielding weakened sides would be fined £5,000.

To reiterate then, the bigger clubs are free to play all of their youngsters while the lesser clubs are fined for that same privilege.

Catlin, though, has hinted the Blues could take the £5,000 hit to do exactly that – something they did in the JPT at Exeter last season.

If I had my way, all teams would follow suit.

Already, some of the lower-league clubs who misguidedly voted to allow the one-season trial of academy sides have now gone public in admitting their mistake.

And while Pompey can feel hard done by with how events have transpired, it could have been a lot worse following the ‘regionalised’ draw.

Spare a thought for the fans of Cheltenham, who were laughably drawn in the northern section and face a three-hour trek to Blackpool.

– JEFF MARSHMAN