Championship sinners need help from higher power to escape purgatory

More EFL clubs will become lost souls like Derby, Reading, and Sheffield Wednesday if a viable alternative to parachute payments is not found, writes Laura Lawrence.

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As the years progress, it’s hard not to think of the Championship as purgatory.

Purgatory, in its Catholic definition, is a state of suffering for the souls of sinners where they must atone for their sins before they’re allowed to move onto heaven.

Depending on whether you believe the Premier League is heaven or hell, of course, it’s a pretty accurate description of clubs who haven’t had the luxury of parachute payments and are seeking alternative routes to compete.

I speak from the experience of being a Sheffield Wednesday fan, a club that last saw the pearly gates of the Premier League 21 years ago. The atonement for our sins didn’t go well. Initially slapped with a 12-point deduction and numerous transfer embargoes last season, we capitulated in the cycle of trying to do the right thing and risking it all on a loophole.

There’s only so long you can keep gambling before relegation is the only option.

This week Derby County were finally judged by the EFL. Derby has been at the forefront of loophole discovery. Plunged into administration and an immediate 12-point deduction they’re also still ‘negotiating’ a possible further nine points being taken away.

The sword of Damocles still hangs over Derby and Sheffield Wednesday. A suspended six-point deduction will be applied if they fail to pay their players any time before June 30th, 2022.

Reading FC look likely to follow them with a nine-point deduction for breaches of profit and sustainability rules.

I don’t expect sympathy for these clubs. They’ve been judged against the rules and found wanting. Whilst they’re on the right side of legal matters, they’re morally on the wrong side. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should but the options for league clubs to remain competitive and sustainable are slim when you don’t have the helping hand of parachute payments to fall back on.

That’s not to say it can’t be done. Take Barnsley and Brentford last season, for example, but what if you’re already in the financial hole? How do you climb out and still compete to remain in a higher league?

Contending with clubs who have a minimum of £55million handed to them for failing to stay in the Premier League is unsustainable. Year one of parachute payments for a relegated Premier League side is more than double Sheffield Wednesday’s turnover from the last published accounting period (£22.8m).

What’s the answer? Diversification of our finances? Maybe if we launch a record label like Wolverhampton Wanderers we can rely on a multi-platinum selling album to pay Barry Bannan’s wages?

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On the other hand, do we simply choose not to compete? Competitive solvency being the new game.

Norwich City are consistently held up as a shining example of how to run a football club but getting promoted to collect the TV money, getting relegated and then repeating the process is insanity. The fact that we’re being offered this as best practice tells us a lot about the industry.

This is what desperation looks like. Yes, these clubs took risks to compete but the fact they feel the need to do so says a lot about the broken system they’re existing in. A lifetime of purgatory cannot be the only way to help these clubs break the cycle.

The EFL risks losing more clubs if all they do is punish but not look for a long-term alternative to parachute payments. We might not be saintly but we still need support from those in a higher position.

Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR

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