Mark Bonner has expressed his frustration at a lack in flexibility in the loan rules following the introduction of a second national lockdown, which stifles first team opportunities for young professionals across the country.
United’s Head Coach had hoped that a quick amendment could be made to the rules which would allow the U’s to bring back a number of young pros from loan spells, hindered by the second national lockdown, to feature in tomorrow’s final Papa John’s Trophy group match with Peterborough United.
However, Bonner has explained how a lack of adaptability in these unprecedented times is leading to a freeze in development for younger players at smaller clubs, such as Lewis Simper and Ben Worman in the U’s case.
He said: “It feels this competition (Papa John’ Trophy) is set up for the bigger club’s younger players. We all know at the outset what this competition is about - being able to play young players and develop them. But we think the rules should be the same for us, and we should be able to play our young players in the competition.
“That level [Non-League] of football is locked down for a month, so there are a lot of young professionals at a Club like ours that will now not play football for a month. My point is they should be looking at the rules in a quick timeframe, don’t take a month to take a decision, because this is the chance and when you’re a young players it’s all about getting the chance.
“I think they should flex the loan rules to help that happen. In my opinion they should also allow emergency loans this year between the windows, and I know that got changed last year, and that it was driven more by FIFA and UEFA than it was the FA. But this year, they should be looking to allow Clubs to flex squads as much as possible, and in doing that allow as many opportunities to play first team football for younger players.
“If ever there is a year where you have to roll with it, and help Clubs out, it is this year.”
He continued: “Whether that support is helping with young players playing, or financial support, at the moment lower League football is continuing, and there’s no real flexibility in the rules to help us with younger players, emergency loans or with funding to get us through. There’s nothing going on, and you are left sit and struggle with it.
“We will do it and continue to work ourselves through the situation, but it can be rather frustrating.”
Bonner has also gone on to question the level of common sense and inconsistencies in the rules imposed on professional football club academies during Lockdown Two, with Cambridge United’s category three academy being handed different rules to those higher ranked.
He said: “Currently, we’re a category three Academy and our U18s are back playing football, as are all the other category academies. But our U9s to U16s are off and not allowed to train or play for the next month, and that’s all well and good if they are the rules nationally. But they’re not. Category one and two club academies are allowed to train and play.
“That makes no sense, it’s just a putdown on category threes, almost classing that they are elite and we’re not. The only difference between us and them is the facilities they’ve got to train, they have an indoor dome. Well guess what the rules say, you’re not allowed to train indoors! It makes no sense whatsoever.
“The only difference is the Premier League run the top categories and the EFL run the others, and I feel for the EFL in that sense. We feel like we get looked down on, but we’ve put up with that for years and we’ll continue to fight our way through that.”