Carlisle United directors have voted in favour of a three-year extension to the controversial Checkatrade Trophy.

The Blues confirmed that they have again supported the involvement of Premier League and Championship under-21 teams despite some record low crowds in the competition.

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens said the views of all club directors were sought and it was a “split vote”, with one vote edging it in favour of the current format continuing until the 2021/22 season.

“The Holdings board voted to continue with the competition as it is,” said Clibbens.

“It was a split vote, as marginal as possible - one vote.”

United's holdings board includes chairman Andrew Jenkins, fellow owners John Nixon and Steven Pattison, CUOSC's Billy Atkinson, Lord Clark and Edinburgh Woollen Mill finance man John Jackson.

Clibbens expects the trophy to gain enough support from other clubs to continue with the same format, with the EFL having canvassed all clubs for their views.

United drew their second-lowest ever home crowd of 882 for this season’s game against Stoke Under-21s.

Many fans of lower-league clubs have boycotted the competition, accusing clubs and the EFL of valuing top-flight cash ahead of supporter feeling.

Clibbens said: “The position of the fans has been clear since the format was first brought forward. Nothing has changed from what I’ve seen since then, - if anything, being honest, the fan sentiment towards it has hardened and that is seen in the continuing decline in the gates.

“I see that, the fans I speak to tell me in no uncertain terms, and there’s no hiding from that.”

He added: “Those issues were heavily discussed around the boardroom table. The view taken was on a financial basis, given where we are as a club and the money involved - we needed to support, and that was the basis of the view.”

He added: “I want to make this clear, there’s nobody in the club doesn’t recognise the fan view.”

Despite United having backed the controversial format again, Clibbens admitted the game faced a problem in terms of fans feeling alienated.

“Football does have a problem in this regard as to the disconnect between supporters and the game,” he said.

“Individual clubs have their own issues [but] setting those aside, the wider issue about that fan disconnect across the wider game is a bigger issue.

“I hope situations like this are as rare as they possibly can be, because the game can’t afford any more of them.”

CUOSC’s Jim Mitchell, a director on United’s operational board, confirmed the supporters’ trust had made their opposition to the Under-21 format known.

He added: “The fans’ directors fully understand the financial situation [at the club] but we look at it as a longer-term issue.

“If you alienate fans constantly, you know where we’ll end up.”

Checkatrade’s three-year sponsorship is not being renewed after it finishes at the end of this season.