The controversial new EFL Trophy looks set to face further setbacks in the coming weeks, with a number of Premier League clubs preparing to snub the competition.
The EFL Trophy is a rebrand of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, a cup competition that formerly included the 48 teams in League One and League Two. In an attempted revamp, however, the Football League have decided to rename the competition, and have controversially invited 16 Premier League academy sides to take part.
The integration of B-teams into lower-league football has been strongly resisted by fans and clubs alike in recent years. While proponents argue it might improve the quality of development sides, critics cite the heritage of lower-league football, strong resistance from supporters and the potential for academy sides to win competitions otherwise reserved for actual clubs.
The inclusion of academy sides in the rebranded EFL Trophy is seen by many as a the first step towards greater integration of B-teams into the lower-league structure. Some fans – including those of Oxford United, Plymouth Argyle and Walsall – have declared their intention to boycott the competition.
Now, though, The Guardian reports that the EFL Trophy faces a lukewarm reception from the Premier League itself. Of the 16 top-flight clubs invited to compete, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham look set to decline the offer.
Spurs and Chelsea are apparently unhappy about scheduling clashes with international breaks, while Arsenal are reportedly reluctant to add to the number of fixtures played by their youth teams.
Meanwhile, Manchester United and Liverpool are believed to be undecided on whether or not to participate. Manchester City have made a decision, but are yet to announce it.