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Mariners Trust hit out at EFL over fixture change

The EFL have been criticised by fans of Grimsby Town for postponing their League Two game against Crewe Alexandra due to a head spinning set of circumstances involving Manchester City’s Under-21s.

Grimsby Town’s League Two game against Crewe Alexandra – due to take place on 8th November – has been postponed with just over four weeks notice due to a scheduling conflict brought about by Manchester City’s participation in the EFL Trophy and UEFA Youth League.

The rescheduling was granted by the EFL after Manchester City requested to postpone their match against Derby County in the EFL Trophy, originally set for Tuesday 20th September.

Due to 18 international call ups across their development teams, City say they were unable to fulfil this fixture on the original date – which was rearranged to Tuesday October 18th October.

With the UEFA Youth League taking up three of the four remaining Tuesdays in October for Manchester City’s development side, this decision pushed the Grimsby Town vs Manchester City EFL Trophy game into November.

As a result the EFL cancelled the League Two match between Crewe and Grimsby with the Mariners Trust saying their club’s supporters were “incredibly disappointed”.

“Grimsby Town fans are rightly angry that a fixture has been allowed to be rescheduled and then postponed a matter of weeks later when it could all have been avoided if, as it seems, rules of the competition were adhered to,” the trust said in a letter to the EFL.

“What consultation was taken with either Club and was more weight given to Manchester City in this scenario, as fans seem to feel is the case?”

This is the first time that a senior men’s league game in the EFL has been postponed due to a Premier League’s Under-21s side – and Mariners Trust say the move sets a dangerous precedent for Premier League interference in the EFL’s schedule.

Additionally, the Mariners Trust claim that the EFL have not adhered to the Trophy’s competition rules and are subsequently calling on the league to reinstate the original date of the League Two fixture, on Tuesday 8th November. But the EFL say rule 3.2 gives their Board “power at any time to alter, delete or add to these Rules in such manner as it in its absolute discretion deems appropriate”.

The Mariners Trust say their EFL Trophy game against City should be played on Tuesday 15th November instead. However, the EFL say that date has been designated for FA Cup 2nd round replays and was unavailable.

“The integrity of this competition further declines,” Mariners Trust said. “It seems apparent to fans, unless you can state otherwise, that the wishes of an invited team have been held in higher regard than an EFL league game and indeed the actual rules of the competition.

“Grimsby Town and Crewe Alexandra fans have been impacted by other teams’ unavailability and that doesn’t seem right.”

Since the issue was raised by Grimsby Town fan reps, the FSA has engaged the EFL who said they understand the frustrations and disappointment associated with fixture rescheduling.

Like all leagues and competitions in the 2022-23 season, the EFL is facing a congested calendar due to the World Cup taking place across November and December in Qatar.

The EFL said flexibility had to be applied in order to fulfil fixtures before the end of the group stage of the EFL Trophy. Competing clubs were contacted before changes were announced.

Supporter representatives routinely meet the EFL alongside the FSA to discuss issues impacting fans and scheduling decisions will be raised at the next supporter engagement meeting.

Update: This article was amended to note that 15th November has been designated for FA Cup 2nd round replays.

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