Should clubs be allowed to opt out of the League Cup? - Ian Hart

Action from Albion's League Cup match with Southampton. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Action from Albion's League Cup match with Southampton. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

The original Football League Cup was contested in 1960/61. It was conceived by the then league supremo Alan Hardaker as a midweek floodlit cup in response to the top English clubs competing in the three new European competitions.

Back then entry to the cup was optional and a number of the larger clubs declined to enter. Aston Villa won the first final, over two legs, against Rotherham United.

The competition didn’t receive a Wembley final status until 1967. Even then the first winners at the Twin Towers, QPR, weren’t allowed into the UEFA Cup the following year on account of the fact they weren’t a first division club.

The credibility of the competition grew throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s. A Wembley final, latterly on live television, guaranteed European qualification and meant all the clubs throughout the leagues took it seriously.

The European ban followed by the advent of the Premier League and all its riches, has seen the competition become less and less of a priority for many clubs as the years have gone by.

Unfortunately when you strip it down, whether we like it or not it comes down to money. The winners of this season’s competition get £100,000 and the runners-up get £50,000.

Using Arsenal as an example, it’s estimated they make in excess of £1.25million from ticket sales, programmes, food and beer for each home Premier League game at the Emirates.

With that kind of income on offer, is the Carabao Cup nothing more than an unwanted distraction?

On Tuesday night, an ‘experimental’ Albion team took on a similar side from Southampton. Don’t get me wrong it was an enjoyable game, but despite having over 23,000 season ticket holders, and a reported 4,000 waiting list, a crowd below 14,000 spoke volumes.

Granted I wanted to see some fringe Albion players get a chance, but that was what the Football Combination was for, before they started messing about with that format.

While I did enjoy the 90 minutes, if the Albion and the rest of football’s elite (time was I didn’t think I’d ever write these words) were given the chance not to enter the League Cup I, and I’d imagine most Albion fans, wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

Whether you like it or not, it’s about Premier League survival and the guaranteed finance that brings.

Perhaps if things do progress, by the time the FA Cup arrives in January, Chris Hughton will be able to field stronger sides and the Albion could go one game, perhaps even two better than last season?

It’s back to league action this week, with the visit of Fulham, in my opinion a comparable team to the Albion. They play good football, have spent well, and will be looking to finish well away from the bottom three come May.

A spirited and impressive performance at Anfield saw the Albion come very close to heading back down the M6 with a valuable point. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be but sometimes clearly you can learn more about your team in defeat.

Prediction time, I think the Albion will put League Cup ‘heartbreak’ behind them and run out 3-1 winners against Fulham, put your house on it!