Sheffield United fined £3000 for fielding 'understrength' side when giving professional debuts to three Academy players in competition designed to help develop Academy players

Sheffield United players celebrate Regan Slater's goal on his debut against Grimsby Town
Sheffield United players celebrate Regan Slater's goal on his debut against Grimsby Town
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Sheffield United have been given a £3000 fine for fielding an 'understrength' side in their Checkatrade Trophy dead rubber against Grimsby Town earlier this month.

United won the game 4-2 with boss Chris Wilder naming 11 Academy graduates in his squad and gave professional debuts to Jordan Hallam, Joe Cummings and Regan Slater, who scored in the victory at Blundell Park.

Neither United nor Grimsby could qualify for the next round of the rightly-maligned competition and the Blades were expecting a financial punishment to come their way.

Twelve clubs in total received fines

A statement released by the EFL today read: "EFL Clubs have today been notified of the fines issued for rule breaches in Round One of this season’s Checkatrade Trophy.

"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.

Chris Wilder congratulates debutant Regan Slater

Chris Wilder congratulates debutant Regan Slater

"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.

"The 12 Clubs fined have the right to appeal to the EFL Board. The remaining 36 clubs complied fully with rules."

The Football League have come under fire this season over their re-structuring of the competition - formerly known as the Johnstones Paint Trophy - after this year's addition of academies with Category A status. The EFL said this would provide young players the opportunity to develop in a more competitive environment, but the move received a lukewarm response as Premier League clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal declined the invitation to enter.

There were also strange re-workings of the rules, including a seemingly random penalty shoot-out at the end of drawn group games and as a result, attendances were for the most part counted in hundreds rather than thousands.

Luton Town were fined a staggering £15,000, equal with Portsmouth as the heaviest punishment, and the Hatters released a statement criticising the league for its stance.

Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet said: “We entered those teams with our eyes wide open and we accept that we would be fined for doing so. 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."