Even in more major competitions like the FA Cup and League Cup, some managers have become the source of controversy by naming a completely changed starting eleven. Some managers would no doubt be tempted to do
this for the EFL Trophy too but competition rules can make wholesale changes a little more challenging, albeit not impossible in some cases. For this tournament, across each
stage of the competition, a side must name at least four ‘qualifying’ outfield players. For any Football League club, a player will count as qualifying if they meet any of the four criteria provided below.
the past, teams have been slapped with a fine for not abiding by these rules. Within three months of the criteria being set, the EFL had dished out 12 penalties to rule-breakers. Luton
Town were stung with the maximum fine of £15,000 for their group stage games as they had absolutely no desire to listen to the rules.
Rather than showing such a brazen disregard for the regulations, Bradford tried to be smarter and subbed a qualifying player off after just three minutes. The EFL took a dim view of this though and fined them £3,000.
As for the academy teams involved, they only have two rules to abide by. One is that at least six starting players must be have been aged under 21 on 30th June the year the
competition begins. For the 2021/22 tournament for example, the cut off was 30th June 2021. The other rule is that there can only
be a maximum of two players on the team sheet that are both over 21 and have made 40+ senior appearances. Rather than facing a fine, failure to follow these rules can lead to a
points deduction. In the 2021/22 EFL Trophy, West Ham U21 lost three points for fielding an ineligible player against Gillingham, something that saw them move from first in the group to third.