Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet has confirmed the club voted against plans for Premier League academy sides to feature in the EFL Trophy next season.
At the EFL’s annual conference and AGM held in Portugal this week, the Sky Bet EFL clubs agreed to pilot a scheme to include category 1 Premier League academy/Under-21 sides in the tournament.
“A democratic process was taken so we will now be supportive of the new competition, which is in a state of flux.”Gary Sweet
In a one-season trial, the competition the Hatters won in 2008-09 will feature 64 teams made up of EFL League One and Two clubs, plus an additional 16 from the top-flight’s development systems, with the introduction of a new group stage format with 16 regional groups of four teams.
Sweet was one of three representing the Town in the Algarve, along with vice-chairman David Wilkinson and senior operations manager Kevan Platt, and he revealed to the club’s official website that Town were one of a number of clubs who voted against the idea, but a majority agreed to a change the EFL describes as part of the “ongoing commitment to creating more and better homegrown players.”
Sweet said: “It was a healthy and lively debate with many mixed opinions and concerns being expressed, most being resolved.
“Many clubs voted against the proposal which was eventually carried by the majority.
“Unfortunately, the old JPT was in a state of flux so some change was indeed necessary to avoid losing the competition altogether.
“There are some good football benefits to this new structure for all clubs, but it is categorically not the thin end of the wedge with so-called ‘B’ teams coming in. It is teams of Under-21/EPPP1 academy standard quality, and not a precursor to ‘B’ teams entering our league.
“Any change to the EFL pyramid structure would need to have 90 per cent of clubs voting in favour, not the 50 per cent as was required for the EFL Trophy.
“There are issues still to be clarified, such as the number of first teamers to be included among other things, but a democratic process was taken so we will now be supportive of the new competition, which is in a state of flux.”
A statement on the EFL website said: “The EFL clubs have agreed, at their 2016 summer conference, to pilot a new format for the EFL Trophy as part of their ongoing commitment to creating more and better home grown players.
“The one season trial for season 2016/17 will include 64 teams made up of EFL League One and Two clubs, plus an additional 16 category 1 Premier League academy/under-21 sides.
“Central to the competition will be the introduction of a new group stage format with 16 regional groups of four teams.
“The top two teams will progress to the knockout stages of the competition with the final staged at Wembley Stadium in April 2017.”
At the AGM, EFL clubs also approved proposals aimed at tackling the under-representation of coaches and managers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
The new measures, which will take immediate effect, include the introduction of mandatory new recruitment practices for coaching positions in Academy football and a Voluntary Recruitment Code in first team football, which will be piloted by at least 10 clubs during 2016/17.
The clubs piloting the voluntary code during 2016/17 are.
Championship: Birmingham City, Fulham, Huddersfield Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
League One: Chesterfield, Coventry City, Millwall and Peterborough United.
League Two: Accrington Stanley and Carlisle United.