Published on July 27th, 2016 | by Bill

B-Teams in the EFL Trophy is insulting, unsporting and worst of all, thick.

Oh Oh Oh I’ll never understand 

Oh Oh complete control, let me see your other hand.

-The Clash

So, the draw for the EFL Trophy, replete with the dregs of Premier League B-teams actually went worse than expected. A clusterfuck of epic proportions that has done no end of damage to the Football League’s reputation while the Premier League skulks around in the background mouthing ‘nothing to do with me guv’.

Already, the boycott, organised by the excellent Against League 3, is in full swing with many fans of Football League and top level teams alike, washing their hands of the whole thing. I’ll be boycotting not because the competition appears an unpalatable act of colonisation by the Football Association Premier League Ltd which reinforces their clubs’ failure to blood English youngsters nor because the Football League have undermined a 188 year history but because the whole thing is so monumentally stupid . Make no mistake we’re seeing the purest form of fuckwittery from a sport that is run primarily for financial gain rather than as a functional industry.

We’ll have to turn a blind eye to the workings of the EFL Trophy draw, mainly due to the fact it was not televised, in a shit-house move from Football League bigwigs that will have conspiracy theorists crashing Twitter. We’ll even ignore the top-level clubs who refused to field B-teams in the competition: your Arsenals, Spurs, Man City’s etc who were presumably too busy counting their money to send their youth teams to play in front of their plastic fans in the provinces.

What we can’t ignore though is the regionalisation of this new universally hated competition that will see Shrewsbury Town and Cambridge United travel to Middlesbrough B in Northern Group G. You don’t have to have a Geography GCSE to realise fans of the thoroughly Eastern and Western clubs will have to travel nigh on 200 miles each to some of the least appealing fixtures ever created.Something similar goes for Cheltenham Town fans who are in the group from hell with such local rivals as Blackpool, Everton and Bolton. Meanwhile, AFC Wimbledon are stuck in a pot with marathon matches against Swansea City, Newport County and Plymouth Argyle of all clubs.

Drink it in and remember that the EFL Trophy restructuring is linked to the Football League’s ‘Whole Game Solution’ which has promised ‘benefits’, wait for it, of ‘vastly reduced’ midweek travel for fans. Snigger.

The whole thing is so stupid as to be insulting. If this is what the Football League’s Whole Game Solution looks like then I don’t want to know the questions were. Although, obviously it isn’t a whole game solution because the Premier League, as usual gets away largely scot free to carry on as before. B-teams are the last fart from the dead horse England Commission which worked out that Premier League teams not playing young English players in their first elevens was a problem but then put the burden of a solution on the rest of the football ladder. Again, we have to live with our heads stuck in the sand and ignore the obvious problems caused by an uber-powerful and inviolable Premier League and put up with any number of increasingly malignant ‘solutions’.

It’s like the Simpsons episode where Bart accidentally hatches a pair of lizards after killing a bird on a nest. The lizards escape into Springfield and eat all the pigeons. Lisa is worried that the town is now infested with lizards but Principal Skinner assures here they’ll send wave after wave of ‘Chinese needle snakes, then snake-eating gorillas, and then when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death’.

At the same time, Premier League executives, with fingers in so many pies they may as well be sponsored by Fray Bentos, radiate in the glow of the sun shining out of their arses while advocating a Winter Break although top flight teams have exhausting pre-season international tours.

The Football League bent over backwards to accommodate the Premier League despite no other options offered up to reinvigorate the ‘tired’ old Johnstone’s Paint Trophy which attracted an audience of 59,230 to its previous final.

That could have been done funnily enough without Premier League (or any other) B-Team intervention via cheaper tickets and by simply tightening up the regionalisation of the old format to guarantee derby games, by drawing by proximity if needs be or by involving Conference sides to reignite a few league/non-league local grudge matches.

A similar logical approach would suggest that the Premier League is responsible for its own difficulties with English player pathways and the failure of EPPP. Surely this should be solved by squad quotas or by forcing Premier League clubs to loan out any English players 18-21 that don’t play a reasonable percentage of first team games.

But that would involved existing in an English football climate where the free market hadn’t run riot ‘Sir’ Philip Green style; where supporters had a real stake in the game and were not left to organise boycotts in their spare time.

When my club’s EFL Trophy games come around I’ll be staying away and donating to the local women’s refuge. Many are doing similar.

But keep an eye out for those snake-eating gorillas. If the FA were stupid enough to contemplate playing the England U-21 side in the Championship, God knows what could come next.

Tom Reed

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