MILLWALL have been fined £3,000 for failing to comply with Checkatrade Trophy rules.
Fines totalling £60,000 were dished out to 12 Football League clubs, with League Two sides Luton and Portsmouth both fined £15,000.
An EFL statement read: “All of the offences punished were due to a failure to meet competition rule 7.3 of fielding a full strength team in and during all matches. The EFL did take into account a number of mitigating factors and also considered transgressions that were not within the spirit of the rules.
“The ‘full strength’ policy for the season 2016/17 competition was five of the starting line-up must have started the previous or following game (a reduction from six in season 2015/16) or five of the starting 11 who have made the most starting appearances in League and domestic Cup competitions fixtures during the current season.
“Invited category 1 Clubs were asked to follow a different set of criteria with 6 of the starting 11 required to be under-21 as of June 30, 2016. None of the invited clubs failed to comply.”
Millwall won all three of their games to qualify for the last 32 of the competition. They defeated Luton 3-1 in their last group game after making nine changes to the side that had started the previous fixture, while just three of the starting XI at Kenilworth Road were subsequently in the line-up to face Bristol Rovers last weekend. Luton had made 11 changes for that game and had already qualified for the next stage.
Luton chief executive Gary Sweet said he was “staggered” by the size of the fine imposed on his club. He questioned why the club were penalised the maximum amount per game, and made reference to Bradford substituting Colin Doyle after just two minutes of their fixture against Bury.
“We entered those teams with our eyes wide open and we accept that we would be fined for doing so,” he said. “While we don’t feel we should be paying ‘fees’ to get our youngsters experience, we view that as an investment in their development. We are staggered, however, that we have been fined the maximum amount for our first offence, which was winning away from home at a club from the division above with half-a-dozen first-team regulars in their team.
“We played nine graduates of our academy in that game at Gillingham, and seven against a West Brom side containing four players, two of whom who were internationals and had been transferred for several million pounds, and still beat both.
“We believe our team selection has added value to a competition that was dying last season and is now – with low three-figure attendances at many matches so far – well and truly on its last legs.
“We had the second highest attendance in our one home game against a fellow senior EFL club, which we believe was only because we were playing our youngsters.
“We acknowledge our breach of the competition rules, but does our ‘offence’ make a mockery of the competition any more than a club substituting their first-choice goalkeeper after just a couple of minutes of the game to ensure they met the five-player starting rule.
“Which is more in keeping with the spirit of the game? Which supports the competition’s ethos of promoting young talent more?
“That is clearly disingenuous and by fining us this amount the EFL is effectively saying that promoting young talent is only acceptable if they’re with an EPPP1 club, and they are depriving their own member clubs’ young players access to first-team football.”
Millwall have yet to say whether they will appeal the penalty.