“Why should the prosperity of 24 clubs be prioritised over the welfare of 48 others?” Daniel Marsh gives his take on the suggestion the Championship can only excel without League One and League Two…
The potential breakaway of the Championship was suggested last week in a Guardian article by Louise Taylor, who was of the opinion that the league was existing within its means and could only flourish by leaving Leagues One and Two behind – potentially at great expense.
There’s no arguing the fact that the Championship is criminally undervalued – but let’s not pretend it should be rectified by gambling away the entire EFL’s prosperity. The Championship is without doubt one of the best leagues in the world, however it would be naïve to suggest that it is an exclusive attraction – the unpredictable appeal of the competition is replicated in the tiers below.
Unfortunately, for the many, this is almost disregarded. Leagues One and Two appear to be little more than collateral damage for the Championship to thrive and are the perfect embodiment of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. For example, so far this season, just six of the 92 live EFL games televised by Sky have not been from the Championship (5 for L1 and 1 for L2). Just for a bit of clarity, that’s just over a measly six percent of the games shown.Embed from Getty Images
League One has been just as enthralling and volatile as the tier above. The promotion race is wide open – just 11 points separate the top 10, with the current top six tighter than ever, Ipswich Town, Sunderland, Coventry City, Portsmouth and Bolton all have huge fanbases – would they really not attract viewing figures for Sky? Furthermore, in a climate where on demand viewing and streaming are key, do viewing figures even matter anymore? The Championship is the top tier of the EFL and warrants a higher proportion of games broadcast perhaps than Leagues One and Two, but the current figures are ridiculous. Sky could learn a lot from Quest’s excellent efforts with their highlights show and BT Sport’s commendable coverage of the National League.
To actually go one step further and to suggest that League Two doesn’t need to be full-time is farcical. Bradford City, Swindon Town, Oldham Athletic, Plymouth Argyle, Leyton Orient – all clubs with proud tradition and fanbases with rich Football League history just to pick a handful of the current fourth-tier crop. Do these clubs warrant the drop from professional status? For local clubs to share grounds and facilities? It’s a ridiculously short-sighted and insulting view.Embed from Getty Images
Unfortunately, some people fail to grasp the concept that without a thriving pyramid underneath it, the Championship and the Premier League would suffer long-term. Countless stars from the top tiers and even at international level have cut their teeth over the past few years in the lower echelons of the game.
So, shouldn’t we be focusing on the shortcomings of the current EFL broadcasting deal before considering global domination for the Championship? Even within its existing media coverage, the third and fourth tiers are almost silently anonymous. Most games receive a small snippet in the weekends football round-ups, while the BBC Sport website has even gone as far as to remove its dedicated section for the two leagues from its landing page.
The financial gulfs between the leagues are already too vast and there needs to be steps taken to ensure the distribution of funds are beneficial to all and not just the few – why should the prosperity of 24 clubs be prioritised over the welfare of 48 others?
Maybe the EFL should be focusing on what it can do to address these issues before anything else. After all – if the threat of a breakaway league comes to fruition – Leagues One and Two will be all that the EFL has left in the long-term.
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DanielMarsh92