Norwich City youngsters will benefit from playing in Checkatrade Trophy games, insists EFL chief

Josh Murphy scores Norwich Citys fifth goal at Barnet in the Checkatrade Trophy group stages. Pictu

Josh Murphy scores Norwich Citys fifth goal at Barnet in the Checkatrade Trophy group stages. Picture by Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd

The controversial Checkatrade Trophy still has a strong future, English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey has said.

Norwich City were one of the 16 clubs with category one academy status to accept an invitation to compete with clubs in League One and League Two in the tournament this season.

The Canaries entered their development squad into the competition and were one of eight invited clubs to reach the knockout stages, after comfortable wins over Peterborough, MK Dons and Barnet, before losing 1-0 to Swansea in the last 16.

• Peterborough United 1 Norwich City Under-23s 6

• Barnet 0 Norwich City Under-23s 5

• Norwich City Under-23s 4 MK Dons 1

• Norwich City Under-23s 0 Swansea City Under-23s 1

Most of the biggest clubs in the country declined to enter, some lower league clubs were fined for fielding weakened teams and average attendance fell to 1,404 from 3,221 in 2015/16.

Speaking ahead of this Sunday's final between Oxford United and Coventry City at Wembley, for which over 70,000 tickets have been sold, EFL boss Harvey remained confident about the Trophy's future prospects.

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'Ultimately the comparison was a competition previously where clubs were as interested in getting knocked out in the first round as they were in getting to the final. That can't bode well for the longevity of the competition,' he said.

'What we have created gives us a real opportunity of using this competition for the benefit of our clubs, the benefit of young players in this country and, as we will see on Sunday, the benefit of in excess of 70,000 fans hoping to cheer their side to victory.'

The future of the competition is set to be decided by League One and Two clubs at a meeting on Saturday, April 11, with the lower clubs having shared £1.5m in prize money, up from £478,000 the previous season, and sponsorship income up by 35pc.

Of the players to take part, 27pc were England and under 21 years old, a rise from 23pc in 2015/16.

'There is no doubt this competition would benefit from the more senior, higher-profile clubs playing in it next year. They will make their own choice,' Harvey continued, speaking to BBC Sport.

'The support we have had from the Category One clubs that did compete will make it a lot easier for those clubs to join next season when they can see, very clearly, the benefits that come from competing.'

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