Does the Championship deserve more respect?


With the Championship season kicking off on the same weekend as the Premier League and La Liga it was inevitably going to receive less coverage than the two biggest leagues in European football. However there is no doubt that the league deserves more respect as it is arguably one of the greatest leagues in the world, the slogan more commonly used to describe it’s bigger brother.


In terms of technical ability and the money to attract new players it is weaker than the two leagues previously mentioned, granted. However in terms of sheer excitement and unpredictability it wins hands down. For instance, could a newly promoted team to the Premier League or La Liga finish in the top two just as Norwich and Southampton have done in recent seasons in the Championship? Definitely not. The gulf in class between Barcelona and Real Madrid in one league and the two Manchester teams in the other makes this a distant dream. The Championship is a thriller to watch from start to finish rivalling the unpredictability of the Bundesliga where nobody can correctly predict which three teams will ever go up. Often half the league is involved in the promotion chase while the other half battle from relegation. Even when the league finishes after a breathtaking 46 games each the play-offs kick in culminating with the richest game in football at Wembley stadium.


The Championship begins to look even more impressive when total attendances are compared. The Championship ranks #9th in the top supported domestic professional leagues from around the world which is only one place below La Liga and two below the Premier League. Amazingly despite boasting less average attendances the Championship ranks higher than Serie A in terms of total attendances, 2million more to be precise for the 2011-12 season.


Based on such impressive statistics an interesting proposition could be made. Considering the size of the Championship rivals top flight European leagues such as Ligue 1, Serie A and the Scottish Premier League should this be officially recognised by the awarding of a Europa League place? Perhaps the champions should be awarded the honour as a reward for winning a trophy. That could give the English Europa League qualifiers that old school Cup Winners’ Cup feeling that so many people crave- win the League Cup, FA Cup or the Championship and earn a Europa League place.


It is not only the fans and pundits that under appreciate the scale of the championship as players can often be guilty of this crime. For example this summer Michael Owen in search of a new club after being released by Manchester United has been quoted as saying “I don’t want to go to the Championship as I know I can play in the Premier League and score goals” (19th August). With all respect if the league is good enough for other top performing Premier League strikers in their thirties such as Craig Bellamy and Kevin Davis then it surely should be good enough for Michael Owen. Owen should be honoured to turn out for clubs who either play fluid attacking football such as Blackpool or Brighton, or clubs who boast a huge heritage and history such as Leeds United or Nottingham Forest. Owen’s reluctantly to turn out in the 9th most supported professional league in the world is arguably a by-product of the intense advertising of the Premier League and an insult to those big clubs who turn over attendances of over 25,000 each home game in one of England’s most competitive leagues.


The calibre of players and managers the league does attract has strengthened in recent seasons. Out of the 20 current Premier League managers 12 of them have plied their trade further down the footballing pyramid. To put things into perspective the current European champions are managed by Roberto Di Matteo, who was guiding West Brom to promotion from the championship during the 2009-10 season. It has attracted top class managers such as former England managers and overseas title winners Steve McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson, Premier League tactician Sam Allardyce and iconic figures of the game such as Steve Bruce and Gianfranco Zola, both former Premier League managers. On the players front the season before Andy Carroll’s record breaking £35M move from Newcastle to Liverpool he was winning the Championship title. Danny Graham, Grant Holt, Shane Long, Scott Sinclair, Adel Taarabt, Yakubu, Kyle Naughton are just some of the names fans have been treated too in modern times.


The Championship is a league where the past and future collide which makes for fascinating viewing. Old favourites like Craig Bellamy and Kevin Phillips have the opportunity to line up against up and coming academy graduates or exciting loanees, recent GB goalkeeper Jack Buckland and Josh McEachran amongst them this season. The Premier League’s reliability on the Championship is undeniable and as a reward the league should be praised and given the high respect it deserves, and after all this consideration that Europa League spot wouldn’t look so out of place now would it?


Tomos Llewellyn


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