Norwich City to enter new EFL Trophy competition

Ben Godfrey is eligible for Norwich City's crack at the new pilot EFL Trophy this season. Picture by

Ben Godfrey is eligible for Norwich City's crack at the new pilot EFL Trophy this season. Picture by Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City's development squad will compete in the new-look EFL Trophy competition this season as one of 16 elite academies invited to take part alongside clubs in Leagues One and Two.

Norwich will play Peterborough United, Barnet and MK Dons once either home and away, with one home game to take place at Carrow Road, following the group stage draw on Wednesday morning after the 64 teams were divided into 16 groups of four. The top two in each group will progress to knock-out stages culminating in a Wembley final scheduled for April 2 2017.

City will travel to London Road again, following their recent pre-season friendly at Peterborough, in the week commencing August 29, before a trip to Barnet in the week commencing October 3 and hosting MK Dons in their final group game in the week commencing November 7.

The Canaries were not among the initial 16 academies invited to participate in a new pilot scheme this season designed to revamp the old Football League Trophy but some of the big Premier League clubs have opted not to accept invitations.

'It's really good for our young players and will give them a taste of senior football,' City chief Alex Neil told the club's official site. 'That's what they all want to do, play in the first-team, so it's an ideal opportunity for them. Now the emergency loan system has gone, it gives us a good test for the boys.'

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The new competition will have an estimated £1.95m prize fund boosted by funds pledged by the Premier League, including £10,000 per win and £5,000 per draw during the group stage and £100,000 for the eventual winner.

'The new format is intended to rejuvenate this competition and also assist the development of the very best young players in English football,' said chief executive Shaun Harvey. 'This will help us deliver more and better home grown players which will deliver benefits to the national team and domestic league football at all levels.

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'I believe this is the right time to pilot these changes to the EFL Trophy, which we will review at the end of the 2016/17 season following discussions with our clubs and having consulted with the other football bodies and supporter organisations.'

Some supporters groups had reacted angrily to the announcement of the pilot, amid fears it is the first step to incorporating Premier League 'B' teams in the English Football League. One of those, Against League 3 (AL3), has already rejected the EFL Trophy plans.

'The EFL and its clubs are well aware football fans do not, and have never, supported these plans,' said campaign manager James Cave. 'AL3 has regularly canvassed supporters and sought their opinion, as have organisations like Supporters Direct.

'Our studies show over 75pc of lower league fans are against the implementation of 'B' teams. Yet the 'B' teams idea is a mere symptom of a far larger problem in English football: supporters are unrepresented by our FA, our leagues and often our clubs.'

• The confirmed 16 academies taking part in the 2016/17 EFL Trophy: Norwich City. Leicester City, Southampton, West Ham United, Stoke City, Chelsea, Everton, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Brighton and Hove Albion, Derby County, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Reading.

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