Notts County fans vent anger after club votes in favour of Checkatrade Trophy format

A crowd of 1,095 at Meadow Lane for the Magpies Checkatrade Trophy match with Hartlepool.

Notts County fans were left angered after the club voted in support of the current controversial format of the Checkatrade Trophy.

The club announced on Wednesday (May 10) they were in support of keeping the 64 team format which sees Premier League under-23 sides compete.

But in a survey conducted by the club’s Supporter Liaison Officer Team earlier this year, only 5.5 per cent of Notts fans who responded wanted to retain the current format, which incorporates 16 Premier League academy sides alongside the 48 League 1 and 2 teams.

A further 45 per cent of fans wanted the trophy abandoned.

The decision has attracted fierce criticism from some fan groups and supporters on social media.

Club chairman Alan Hardy says the call was made in the best interests of the club and said some critics were guilty of ‘scaremongering’ over the issue of the competition’s future.

Results of the Notts County survey of more than 600 supporters:

  • Just under 45 per cent of surveyed supporters would like to see the competition abandoned altogether from 2017-18
  • 27.5 per cent would like to see the format of the competition revert back to involving League One and League Two only
  • 22 per cent of supporters elected to change the format to include clubs from League One, League Two and the National League
  • 5.5 per cent of those surveyed were split between leaving the format of the competition as it is with no changes, or making the sole change of allowing League One and League Two clubs to field any team they wish

Gerrit Forward editor and season ticket holder Dane Vincent said: “With a significant portion of our fans voting against B-team participation, it’s safe to say that the club has gone against the views of the audience with the decision to vote in favour of keeping the Checkatrade Trophy in its current format.

“The reasoning behind the decision is down to the potential financial gains of the competition, which is understandable from a business perspective.

“£20,000 per win is hugely attractive to a club at our level, especially when we’re meant to be losing around £1.5m a year, but even then there are no guarantees.”

The EFL Trophy was founded in 1983 as the Associate Members Cup’, an annual knock-out competition open to the 48 clubs in the EFL League One and Two.

The competition was renamed to its current title in 2016, coinciding with its first season under a new format; incorporating 16 academy sides in a regional group stage.

The new format saw a fall in attendances across the country with some fans using the hashtag #BTeamBoycott on Twitter.

Several clubs recorded new lowest attendances and only two of 24 games attracted more than 1,500 fans.

Notts played in front of their lowest attendance in the trophy for more than 10 years when only 633 fans turned up to their away match with Sunderland B.

Dane said: “The Checkatrade Trophy is widely detested by fans of lower-league clubs, due to the inclusion of Premier League B teams and an array of ridiculous rules.

“I get to every game I can, but refused to acknowledge the Checkatrade Trophy this season as I feel it’s damaging to teams at our level in the long-term.

“I didn’t attend, I didn’t listen on the radio and I didn’t check the score on Twitter – I know I’m not the only one with this approach.

“My only hope is that, should the tournament go ahead with B teams, we do win a bit of money, because we’re unlikely to be getting many through the gate.”

Notts County owner and chairman, Alan Hardy.

Chairman and owner Alan Hardy said: “From both a competitive and financial point of view I am confident we have voted in the best interests of the club.

“The prize money on offer is vastly increased, presenting us with an opportunity to generate significant revenue to help us move the club forward.

“The results of our survey showed the majority of Notts fans see a future for this competition and, in light of the amendments proposed by the EFL, we believe we have opted for the best way forward.”

Mr Hardy also tweeted that the £20,000 bonus on offer during each round of the trophy is important in improving Kevin Nolan’s player budget.

Despite criticism from some Mr Hardy insisted this decision is the best one for the club, saying: “We have by no means ignored our supporters – nor has that ever been our intention.

“Their views on this matter were taken seriously, reviewed in detail and passed on to the EFL at club meetings.

“As chairman, however, I have to take every factor into consideration when making these decisions.

“Unfortunately, as much as I would like it to be, it isn’t always as simple as giving every supporter what they want.

“My greatest concern is that some people are being misled by the idea that our chosen format of the Checkatrade Trophy is providing a pathway for ‘B-teams’ to be inducted into the EFL.

“This, quite simply, will never happen; we would certainly never vote in favour of it.

“Perhaps once this scaremongering ceases we will all be able to see that the competition provides an opportunity to generate significant revenue for the football club through prize money, while offering our supporters, players and staff the chance to enjoy a trip to Wembley.

“I understand fans’ frustrations and respect their passion but this subject has always divided opinion and has been a point of controversy.

“But the responsibility falls on me to do what I believe is best for the club and I would ask all our supporters to stick by us as we move into what I’m sure will be a very exciting summer.”

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