Stevenage FC chairman, Phil Wallace has spoken about the recent vote for the new EFL Trophy format for this season and the potential wider changes to the league going forward.
“The EFL Trophy proposal was pushed hard by the EFL board on the basis that the competition needed change, which most clubs agreed with. Their proposal required the consent of a majority of the 48 clubs for it to be accepted and it was comfortably voted in by a huge majority.
“Our own position was that we agreed that something absolutely needed to be done with this competition and the 16 groups of 4 proposal, with 2 clubs going through to the last 32, was an interesting development. In our opinion it is much better than the existing system of 48 teams, where some clubs get byes and some don’t – a system which we have always thought to be unfair and unacceptable.
“EFL clubs are understandably wary of ‘membership by stealth’ so considerable comfort had to be given to us that this proposal was not opening the door to Premier League B teams in the EFL. With that comfort given, if we wanted the 16 x 4 mini league format to replace the existing system of ‘random byes’, then it was either invite 16 National League teams in - which had been tried years ago and dropped - or accept the request from the Premier League to trial 16 Category One Under 21 sides.
“Since it appeared there had been no previous discussion with the National League on this proposal and it was a one season pilot, it wasn’t a difficult decision for those clubs wanting a fresh format to agree to the board’s request and accept 16 Category One Premier League Under 21 sides for a one season trial."
Turning to the proposal for 4 divisions of 20 clubs, Phil Wallace said, “For the record, our stance on the inclusion of Premier League B teams forming part of the EFL is that we are totally against it. The feeling we got from the AGM was that the only clubs that would be admitted to the EFL to form a new League Three, if that ever happens, would be clubs from the National League.
“We do not believe there is a fixture issue in the lower leagues and most clubs would rather play more games, not less. We commend any initiative that opens the door to debate about bringing our collective operating losses under control but debate, as far as we are concerned, means full consultation with the fans, not just the stakeholders. That will be our position going into the 12 months of discussion before the clubs vote on the wider - and permanent - potential changes to the EFL in June 2017.”