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The news that The Football League is on the lookout for a new title sponsor for its showpiece cup competition for the first time in 14 years after Molson Coors (owners of the Carling brand ) declined to extend its current deal may be a blessing in disguise.
“This is the first time in 14 years that this sponsorship has been available in the market place and we look forward to offering potential sponsors the rare opportunity to put their brand on one of domestic football’s major competitions,” said Football League chairman Greg Clarke. “The growth in popularity of English football on the world stage, which has led to the League Cup being broadcast in more than 150 countries, means that this is also a sponsorship with global appeal.”
That may well be true, but it is not a view universally shared by those in the game, with several high profile managers expressing indifference as they concentrate on other priorities. It is not only Premier League teams that have adopted this stance.
Teams from the lower leagues have also taken the opportunity to rest whole squads. Take the recent Southampton v Preston tie - the only two players in the starting line-ups from victories the previous weekend were the two keepers. It was a similar story when Palace met Boro days before an indentical League encounter. Both managers put out very different teams for the two games.
Yet, despite all the changes class works through and of the last 16 this season 11 are from the Premier League, and with odd exceptions one of the 'big five' has generally contested the final and won the cup.
Fans have also given the competition the thumbs down with attendances in many cases well below league averages. There's no doubt the economy has a part to play in that, but it may also reflect waning appeal generally.
With a new sponsor having to be found there is no better time to throw ideas on the table for discussion. If sides are going to play fringe players, why not embrace that concept and introduce a rule that so many of each side has to be under say 21. This would give the competition a direct purpose that supporters will embrace. Fans love to see home-grown youth coming through their ranks and it will give them a show piece for the talents.
There may well be other ideas, but it surely worth some time and effort to explore possibilities, even if in the end it stays the same. Nothing ventured - nothing gained.