Champions League reforms do not threaten EFL Cup future, says EFL chairman Rick Parry

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates winning this season's EFL Cup after beating Chelsea in the final
Liverpool won this season’s EFL Cup final by beating Chelsea in the final

Champions League reform does not threaten the future of the EFL Cup but the Football League is “realistic” about changes that might be needed to its format, says chairman Rick Parry.

Uefa agreed to expand the tournament from 32 to 36 teams last year – with the group stage to be expanded from six matchdays to either 10 or, more likely, eight.

This will require additional midweek dates before Christmas, which will impact on the EFL Cup given there are no spare dates between the September international break and the end of December.

“We are realistic,” Parry told BBC Sport. “We clearly know 2024 is coming.

“Uefa doesn’t really like League Cups. We are pretty much unique now in terms of major leagues.

“I don’t think the future of the competition is under threat. But it’s whether we look at the time-tabling of it. Whether, for example, we have to consider single leg semi-finals. Whether we have to look at the teams that clubs in Europe field.

“If discussions around the future of the EFL Cup are part of the broader discussion around redistribution and governance, so be it. But they can’t take place in isolation. They have to be part of the total package.”

Derby stadium issue ‘needs sorting’

The future of the EFL Cup is one of a number of major issues facing Parry’s organisation.

The most immediate of these is the uncertain future of Derby County, recently relegated to League One.

Preferred bidder Chris Kirchner had hoped to get approval for his purchase of the Rams at the end of last week.

However, this was not forthcoming from the EFL because of continuing uncertainty over the club’s Pride Park stadium, which remains under the control of former owner Mel Morris.

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Kirchner has now flown to Bangkok, in Thailand, for a prior engagement in Bangkok.

“Clearly we desperately want to see Derby survive,” said Parry.

“We have made a lot of progress in recent days in terms of the bid that was put before us and it being able to satisfy our requirements. The issue, which is no great surprise and has been the biggest issue all along, is the need to sort out the position with the stadium.”

‘Chance of a lifetime’ to address football’s financial problems

The EFL is also hoping the UK government pushes through Tracy Crouch’s recommendations within the recent fan-led review of football governance.

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Parry has led the call for a redistribution of funding across the game and views Crouch’s findings as offering the “chance of a lifetime” to reset English club football’s financial structure.

The EFL is particularly opposed to the benefit relegated clubs get from Premier League parachute payments.

Fulham and Bournemouth both benefited from them as they were promoted back to the top flight this season and, of the four additional clubs who received them, two – Sheffield United and Huddersfield – also have a chance to get promoted through the play-offs.

“The cliff-edge between the Championship and Premier League is almost unbridgeable,” he said.

“If you are going to make clubs sustainable, you need to look at the distribution of revenues and also financial regulation. You can’t have one without the other. If you just have regulation, you might regulate clubs out of existence. If you just have redistribution, then, arguably, the money gets wasted.

“If we don’t address the issue of parachute payments, we are likely to have a group of yo-yo clubs, which is in nobody’s interests. The Premier League needs new faces and new voices, not three or four clubs who just go up and down.”

‘Nobody is immune’ from mental health problems

Parry was speaking in the National Football Museum at the ‘celebration’ of the end of the EFL’s partnership with mental health charity Mind.

He believes the arrangement has helped foster a growing awareness of mental health problems within football.

“Nobody is immune,” said Parry. “The fact they are fit, well-paid and talented absolutely doesn’t mean footballers are immune from mental health challenges.

“It is a very high pressure environment and there has been a very macho culture in which it has been hard to admit to mental health issues.

“If nothing else, what we have enabled people to do is to talk about the situation in a grown up way and recognise it is not something to be embarrassed about.

“People are being trained to recognise those first signs when people might be struggling, to encourage them to open up and talk. This partnership will create a real legacy because the clubs’ awareness and involvement will go on.”

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