Carabao Cup two-leg semi-finals survive another season after failure to agree New Deal for Football

Michael Carrick consoles Morgan Rogers
Michael Carrick (right) watched his Boro side get thrashed by Chelsea - Reuters/Dylan Martinez

The English Football League is resolutely sticking with two-leg Carabao Cup semi-finals next season because of ‘New Deal’ rescue package delays by the Premier League.

Reducing the semi-finals to a single leg is set to be among the conditions for long-awaited extra funding for the EFL from English top-tier clubs. However, with talks paused before Christmas, Rick Parry, the EFL chairman, warned MPs last week that the EFL would not be meeting any demands in advance.

“As it stands there is no agreement in place to make any changes to the Carabao Cup’s two-legged semi-final format, which continues to provide significant financial benefit to EFL clubs,” Trevor Birch, the league’s chief executive, has now confirmed.

Calendar considerations are a key part of ‘New Deal’ talks due to extra fixture congestion caused by the expansion of Uefa’s club competitions.

But with no offer on funding being put to the EFL by the Premier League to date, Birch said in a press release: “The league remains committed to a review of the calendar, but any significant changes cannot be made unilaterally and would need to come with significant levels of compensation and adopted as part of any new distribution deal with the Premier League and its clubs.”

This season’s Carabao Cup semi-final second legs have been taking place this week, with Chelsea booking their place in the final after a 6-1 second-leg win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday night. Fulham and Liverpool play the second leg of the other semi-final on Wednesday night, with the Merseysiders 2-1 up after the first meeting.

Parry told MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport select committee last week that his organisation would not make changes to the calendar without a new deal on funding.

“As part of a new deal, we’re prepared to take on board considerable loss of revenue from the loss of FA Cup replays [and] the second legs of the Carabao. We’re absolutely not prepared to concede those on the basis there is no deal,” he said.

The Football Association has yet to confirm its plans for next season’s FA Cup and whether replays at the third and fourth-round stage will feature. Clubs who qualify for the Champions League are set to play at least two extra matches in the new 36-team league phase, with a further two if they are required to play off for a place in the last 16. Chelsea and Manchester City are then also set to compete in the inaugural 32-team Fifa Club World Cup at the end of next season.

Maheta Molango, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, has warned “people are ready to take legal action” over the calendar changes.

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