This week, The EFL have investigated both Huddersfield Town and Bradford City. This comes after each club made a number of changes in the weekend’s fixtures. Huddersfield travelled to Birmingham, losing 2-0 after 8 first team changes, whilst Bradford drew at Rochdale with 9 alternate players.
Both teams have been confirmed in the Play Offs for the Championship and League One respectively. This was confirmed before the fixtures played at the weekend when the offences were apparently committed.
My issue with this charge is the inconsistency of the EFL regulations in regards to the charge.
It must be pointed out that section 24 of the EFL regulations clearly states the following:
‘Each Club shall play its full strength in all Matches played under the auspices of The League unless some satisfactory reason is given. In the event of the explanation not being deemed satisfactory the Board shall refer the matter to a Disciplinary Commission which has the power to impose such penalties as it shall think fit.’
There are two things I find wrong with this rule in regards to the above charges. First of all, how can the EFL force a team to play its strongest team? What constitutes a full strength team? Does this mean that younger players are unable to get a chance over ‘stronger’ ability players? Surely they wouldn’t be able to, unless of course they give a ‘satisfactory explanation’. I would assume that the EFL don’t investigate every team’s line-up every single week, or maybe I’m incorrect.
Secondly, the EFL reserve the right to ‘impose such penalties as it shall think fit’. Which is perfectly fine, but this is when the explanation is not ‘deemed satisfactory’ by the board. Bradford and Huddersfield made the changes to rest their key players for the Play Off campaign. For Huddersfield, it is the most important period in the clubs recent history. Bradford meanwhile are aiming to keep up their rise up the divisions. They were last in the top flight in 2001, but a series of relegations found them in League 2 in 2008.
The EFL have stated that they must protect the integrity of the competition, and thus must investigate the line-up changes from either party. It must be acknowledged that there is no allegations of any form of match fixing, but because of the amount of changes, suspicion will always be made. However, there was no fuss made when Town fielded a near-identical side against Manchester City in the FA Cup (who drew 1-1 with them).
Huddersfield lined up against struggling Championship outfit Birmingham City, who have recently hired Harry Redknapp in a last-ditch bid to remain in the Championship. The teams around them, Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forrest, also have a chance of being relegated to League One, and so the fate of the three clubs will come down to the final day. There has been fan uproar online from the fans of each club over Huddersfield’s selection, and this is brought back to the EFL’s idea of the integrity of the league.
However, It is not Huddersfield’s fault that Birmingham, Nottingham Forrest or Blackburn are in the precarious position that they’re in. Their fans shouldn’t be complaining that they were unfairly treated in the 45th game of the season, but more why the previous 44 games had gone so poorly that they are in their current situation.
Bradford’s tale is rather different. They faced a Rochdale side with an outside shot of the playoffs, and held them to a 1-1 draw. Results elsewhere kept them out of the playoffs, so in effect, nothing was altered by Stuart McCall’s team selection.
But the point still stands, regardless of the circumstances in which the games were played, neither team should be penalised for making use of their squad. They are permitted to use a large squad for a reason, and so there is no issue in resting a number of players for a more important fixture.