The strength of the teams playing in the Championship this season is quite remarkable, so remarkable in fact that any one of the divisions 24 teams have a chance of promotion. I know that every team in every league around the world has a chance of winning their division, gaining promotion, or achieving success in whatever way it is quantified. However, realistically it wouldn’t be truthful to say that of many teams in many leagues, for example, we know that barring Leicester’s miraculous season in 2015/16, the same teams have dominated the top six of the Premier League for the last couple of decades. In another way, you could look at the Bundesliga in Germany or Ligue 1 in France and make an educated estimate about the top ten in either division based on squad size, the amount of talent in the team, finances, and average gates.
Though in many ways, it is impossible to make a differential between the best and worst in the Championship.
Each team boasts Premier League standard players and experienced managers who either played or coached at the highest level. Furthermore, most Championship teams now play in front of massive crowds who sit in beautiful all-seater stadiums that were once only visible in the Premier League. Brentford, Bristol City, Preston and Millwall are the only teams in the Championship that have not played in England’s top flight during the Premier League era. But when studying each of those teams squads, finances, facilities, and results you might think that they were Premier League alumni if you didn’t know better. Put simply, both on and off the pitch the standard of Championship Football is unbelievably high and I love watching it.
But worryingly, it seems that the stronger that the Championship gets, the bigger the gap between the Championship and League One and the lower leagues grows.
This is a worry of mine because I am a fan of League One side Peterborough United and though we are financially managed quite well, I fear that if we were to gain promotion to the Championship- we would struggle immensely to compete no matter how hard we worked, or how well we played. Though we are a good side with, talented young players many of them have never played in the Championship before and wouldn’t be deemed good enough to play in the Championship in the future. Thus we would need to spend money to buy players of Championship quality, but with gates of 6,000, who would we be able to afford? Because ultimately any player that does well consistently in the Championship will cost you many millions, and my team along with almost every other League One promotion hopeful wouldn’t be able to afford that. But due to Parachute payments, big attendances and commercial rights deals most Championship clubs have millions to burn in each transfer window. Championship clubs spends millions of pounds transferring players from teams abroad and between themselves. Some massive transfers have taken place in the last couple of summers; Britt Assombalonga’s £15 million move from Nottingham Forest to Middlesbrough was a particularly shocking exchange between two clubs in England’s second tier. But the Assombalonga transfer is not a stand-alone deal, quite the contrary; it is the mere tip of an ever-growing iceberg that includes millions of pounds of transfers between Championship colleagues.
If we are going to tackle the growing divisional gap in the English game we must ask the FA to spread prize money, and parachute moments more fairly. The FA must also look to cap Championship and Premier League spending so the gap doesn’t grow further and so clubs with smaller budgets can dream of travelling the distance from the lower leagues to the Premier League. There is no easy fix to this problem, but it must be addressed before the chequebook dominates football completely.