For supporters of lower-league football clubs, the Football League Trophy represents the only realistic opportunity to see their team win a trophy at Wembley stadium. While the latter stages are generally well supported, the early rounds of the competition often attract small crowds and it is for this reason, allegedly, the tournament has been "shaken up" with the introduction of Premier League and Championship 'B' Teams and of a 'group stage' .
This is a bizarre move in the eyes of many supporters, given the rhetoric of the Football League (now rebranded as the "EFL") regarding reducing the number of fixtures it's members would have to play. Instead, Shrewsbury Town, as opposed to one local game, must complete three fixtures, one of which is a gruelling midweek trek to take on Middlesbrough Reserves. This the sort of fixture which, apparently, is expected to "invigorate" and "freshen up" the tournament. The sanest days are mad!
Whilst the additional load of fixtures is unwelcome enough. The real insult is the reduction of clubs, including our own Shrewsbury Town, to fodder against which bigger clubs can give their stockpiled youths a run out. If young footballers are to be given more game time, surely it is better that they are encouraged to stay with lower-league teams for longer, to develop. Furthermore, the argument that having young players compete in three fixtures against weakened League One and League Two sides (as Micky Mellon has indicated Salop will field in these games) will help the England team is also a completely ridiculous notion.
Additionally, when one studies Shrewsbury Town's last results against the first teams of the reserve sides competing in the EFL Trophy, the insult become even more obvious:
Shrewsbury 2-1 Everton (2003)
Wolves 0-0 Shrewsbury (2014)
Stoke 2-1 Shrewsbury (2010)
Blackburn 1-2 Shrewsbury (2015)
Derby 2-3 Shrewsbury (2011)
Sunderland 1-0 Shrewsbury (2016)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Shrewsbury (2012)
Leicester 0-1 Shrewsbury (2014)
Shrewsbury 1-2 Chelsea (2014)
Shrewsbury 1-0 Norwich (2014)
Shrewsbury 3-1 Swansea (2011)
... You get the point. Why should our club have to play the reserve sides of teams whose first team we have proven competitive against?
As fans of Shrewsbury Town, we are happy to be able to say that our team does not support the format of this tournament, which would normalise competitive games against 'B' teams - a slippery, and dangerous, slope. Nonetheless, a boycott is necessary in order to show the "EFL" how little appetite there is for it among supporters. Therefore, Salop fans are donating the money they would have spent at the games to Shrewsbury Town in the Community in order to support the good work the club does in this area.