‘Confusion’ over ‘bizarre’ EFL young player stance

James Justin

Seventeen-year-old James Justin is one of the Luton players who has appeared in the EFL Trophy and League Two this season

The English Football League (EFL) is “confusing” clubs with its differing approaches to the selection of young players, it has been claimed.

The EFL Futures project – worth £750,000 per season – rewards clubs every time an England-qualified player aged under 21, or Wales-qualified for Welsh clubs, starts a league game.

But in the EFL Trophy, 12 clubs have been fined for picking weakened teams.

Luton chief executive Gary Sweet said the EFL’s policy was “bizarre”.

He added: “Clubs are rewarded for fielding young talent in one EFL competition but are punished for doing exactly the same in another.”

After the three matches of the group stage, League Two Luton were fined £15,000 for breaching the EFL Trophy rule that teams have to field five players who started the previous or following game, or five who had made the most appearances this season.

Yet if manager Nathan Jones had picked the same teams in the preceding league games, on current projections, the Hatters would have received around £6,900 from the governing body via EFL Futures, which was formally launched earlier this month.

Sweet added: “EFL clubs are confused to say the least. There is an utter lack of joined-up thinking; completely devoid of any strategic framework.”

The EFL Trophy will be reviewed at the end of the season after it was revamped to include Premier League and Championship teams who have category one academies, with the stated aim of providing younger players with competitive games.

A number of leading clubs, including Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, turned down their invitations.

Luton qualified out of a group that included West Brom, then beat Swindon to reach the third round, where they will play Chesterfield on 10 January.

Sweet said: “We were fined £15,000 for fielding young players yet those very statistics were included in the EFL’s PR to promote the benefits of the EFL Trophy.

“Furthermore, for doing exactly the same thing in the league we’ve been lauded as an example for being bold enough to play our youngsters.

“It simply doesn’t make sense.”

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey denied that his organisation was sending out mixed messages, saying the restriction on League One and Two clubs making changes to their EFL Trophy sides was to make sure their teams were of sufficient strength to “address the principle” of younger players getting competitive football at senior level.

He said: “I don’t think there is a mixed message.

“What there is, is two initiatives being run together with slightly different objectives that do not marry perfectly together. But they were never intended to.”

Take part in our new Premier League Predictor game, which allows you to create leagues with friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *