The Championship clubs have to change approach?

Wednesday, 5 August 2020, 8:54
4 mins read

The Championship.  The league that spawns the richest game in football in the play off final and where the riches that await the three sides that depart the division in the upward direction increase year on year.  The rewards for those that succeed are well reported but what about those that are left behind especially when we come out of the global pandemic.

In our series where we consider the impact of Covid-19 on the long term future of football we have already looked at the transfer market and football in Leagues One and Two where the financial implications are greater but not necessarily more damaging.  Pressure will be tough in the Championship as well – as it always is – with some clubs ready to gamble on promotion where the price of failure is felt for many years to come.

Fulham’s 2-1 win over Brentford last night at Wembley pushed them back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.  Not something that every club achieves – just ask Leeds United – but something that assists their financial stability.   Next season, Norwich will be back in the Championship after just one season back in the top flight but will they be financially stronger than they were when they left?  We know from our own experience that the Premier League takes you to a whole new financial level but dropping out of it can have implications that last beyond the length of the much discussed parachute payments.

Spending money has not always guaranteed success and probably never will in a division that is deemed to be the most competitive in Europe.  We finished 6th last season.  In terms of points we were closer to Charlton (relegated) than we were to Leeds (promoted) that is how close it can get between a good season and a poor one.   Sheffield Wednesday will start next season in the negative thanks to their breaches of financial fair play rules and other clubs are being looked at for the same.  The desperation to get into the Premier League pushes clubs to the limit.

The Championship has not seen crowds in their games – like the rest of football – since the start of March.  It is extremely doubtful that crowds will be back in those stadiums this side of Christmas.  Whilst TV revenue at least keeps an income stream going this is a huge reduction for clubs who were already living relatively close to their means before the substantial reduction in income.  Take a look around the books of the 24 clubs who will play in the Championship next season and not many – if any – of them would look attractive of giving the suggestion of a long term sustainable business.   In the main clubs at this level live (and manage themselves) for promotion and deal with the fall out of that not happening when they have to.

There are exceptions but they are few and far between.  The media state clearly it is the dream of every Championship club to reach the Premier League but dreams can turn to nightmares quite quickly when they don’t come true.

I personally think that every club at Championship level is at risk due to the pandemic.  Even those that have an owner who could (or would have) put in more money may find that those funds are more limited now and become more limited the longer this goes on.  Those that receive the cash injection that they will need to sustain their future may find that it is in the form of loans and the average debt of a Championship club is likely to increase.

On the other side what we will likely find is that transfer outgoings will reduce.  Clubs will become more reliant on youth players, loan players and scouting lower leagues and abroad for the undoubted value purchases that are out there.  Players maybe not quite good enough for the Premier League will still play Championship football but will find contracts are less lucrative and the gap between Premier League and Championship average wages could get bigger.

What also could get bigger is the step up over time.   They used to say that the sides stepping up from the Championship were taking a huge step.  It never felt that way when we were promoted and over the past 10 years it has felt as if the gap between the lower half of the Premier League and the top half of the Championship was closing.  Reduced income and long term effects on the Championship clubs could see that trend reverse over the next few years which in turn makes the desire to step up soon higher.

Over the past couple of articles we have talked about how football has buried its head in the sand a little over the past few months and I think they still are.   Whilst the media may forget that there is a League One and Two they do remember there is a Championship but they seem oblivious to the fact that the division is facing a pivotal moment in its history.  They should not be blind to the fact that clubs lived on the edge at the best of times let alone when you may have 15 games less revenue to account for because of closed doors football.

Things do need to change.  Wage caps, certainly spending caps and slightly different approaches to transfer policies will all help ensure that clubs survive this period because, whilst the problem is greater in the lower two divisions, it would be naive to think it is not an issue here.

With the world in the middle of a global pandemic and predictions of spikes, second waves aplenty and local lockdowns in place, we are looking at some of the potential impacts on football going forward.  Tomorrow we will bring the viewpoint right back home by considering the impact on Swansea City as a whole.

You can read our thoughts on the transfer market here and share the views with other fans on our forum here

You can read our thoughts on football in Leagues One and Two here and share the views with other fans on the forum discussion here

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

Phil Sumbler

Been watching the Swans since the very late 1970s and running the Planet Swans website (in all its current and previous guises since the summer of 2001 As it stood was right at the forefront of some of the activity against Tony Petty back in 2001, breaking many of the stories of the day as fans stood against the actions where the local media failed. Was involved with the Swans Supporters Trust from 2005, for the large part as Chairman before standing down in the summer of 2020.

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