Chesterfield CEO '˜initially opposed' Football League Trophy changes as fans threaten boycott
Chesterfield CEO Chris Turner '˜initially opposed' changes to the Football League Trophy but has not revealed how the club voted on the issue.
Turner was representing the club at the Football League AGM in Portugal, where the proposed introduction of Premier League academy sides was approved by a vote.
The competition will also change format, with a group stage being introduced before the knockout rounds.
More than 4,700 football supporters have signed a petition against the changes, and a number of Chesterfield fans have reacted angrily, making their thoughts clear on social media and an online forum.
Posting on the Derbyshire Times Facebook page, Owen Pavey said: “Supporters of Football League clubs do not want this and will most likely boycott games involving Premier League reserve teams when this competition change takes place next year.
Terry Young added: “Once again Premiership stick their nose in and ruin things for lower tier teams.”
Benjamin Roberts tweeted: “As a Chesterfield season ticket holder I will be boycotting this competition.”
Accrington Stanley, AFC Wimbledon, Portsmouth, Hartlepool United, Luton Town and Port Vale are believed to have voted against the proposals.
Spireites chief executive Turner said in a club statement that he had initially opposed the changes – but did not say which way he had voted.
Turner highlighted the potential financial benefits of the Premier League’s support for the competition and that it was a one-year trial, but conceded there were downsides.
He said: “We did speak out against the proposed change at the regional meeting, prior to voting.
“We are fully aware of the potential problems and obviously it makes it harder for EFL clubs to win the competition.
“It soon became obvious during the discussions, however, that more clubs were in favour of making the change.
“The Premier League supports the EFL massively and I think the feeling was that we should go with their suggestion for one season.
“There is some additional prize money from the Premiership, too.
“There will a new sponsor for the trophy and it is thought that bringing in the 16 clubs will create more interest in the competition as attendances were dropping.
“Now that the decision has been made, we all have to get behind the new format and try to make it a success.”
Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee has previously spoken of his distaste for Premier League involvement in the Football League Trophy.
Writing in his Derbyshire Times column, Lee said: “It’s a tournament that is close to my heart so you can imagine the antipathy that came over me when I read that the Premier League are in discussions with the Football League to introduce 16 Under 21 or ‘B’ teams to the tournament.
“Apparently the move would ensure more ‘competitive football’ –whatever that means – between the ages of 18 to 21 at Premier League academies.
“Introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams would compromise the competition’s integrity and devalue any success achieved.
“Let’s not ruin a fantastic tournament just so the Premier League can put what is tantamount to a sticking plaster over an open wound.”