Fulham’s history making Championship title may mean nothing if the disparity issue isn’t solved

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Fulham’s history making Championship title may mean nothing if the disparity issue isn’t solved

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Siddhant Lazar

05/29/2022

People love watching chaos. Not in the world or in their own lives mind you because there’s something underrated and beautiful about having a sense of control over your own life. But more a controlled sense of chaos in their mediums of escape; whether it be TV serials or the football.

And this season, nothing has defined chaos and a lack of sense more than the Championship. Well, the 2. Bundesliga does come close but there has been no league on this planet that has been the personification of chaotic nonsense like the way the Championship has been. Take Fulham; they’ve lifted the Championship trophy, became the first team to score 100 goals in twenty years, have a sensational Aleksandr Mitrovic who broke the scoring record with 43 goals and have scored five or more goals on seven occasions this season.

Yet despite all that, Bournemouth led the league for a nice chunk of the season and still managed to stay about three or four points behind the Cottagers until their recent dip of form. Even then, the Cherries were far from safe in second as Nottingham Forest sat behind them and on their heels with Huddersfield, Sheffield United and Luton Town all in the same boat. But move back to Forest because the Reds endured a start so terrible, that many expected them to be relegated.

How bad? Zero wins in their first seven games of the season and yet come the end of the season, they were two wins away from leapfrogging Bournemouth into the direct promotion spot. But fate wasn’t on their side, yet again, as a 1-0 loss to Cherries meant that those hopes were dashed although they do have a playoff final ahead of them. But all that is besides the point because what really does matter is from the three teams relegated last season, two of them are in the top six while one won the league title.

Move back a year and all three teams that were relegated at the end of the 2019/20 season were in the top six with Norwich City and Watford finishing in the direct promotion spots. Move back another season and two of the three were in the top six and the trend continues with only serious financial problems affecting the relegated teams from competing again. That trend has been the only consistent thing about the Championship and it all stems from one single thing; Parachute payments.

You see, the Premier League, in their everlasting love for the lower tiers of English football, hand out parachutes to the teams getting relegated so that the financial pinch is not that hard on them. It means that a relegated team manages to clean up £100 million for the season they spent in the top tier, then about £40 million for the first season in the second-tier and around £30 million for the second. That’s why Norwich City, and not Manchester City or Liverpool, are arguably the best run club in English football.

Crazy notion that, right? But think about it because the Canaries effectively spent each season going up and down, up and down, up and down. In the last ten years, they’ve spent three consecutive seasons in the top tier, three consecutive seasons in the second tier before realising what they had to do and since then, the last four have been them yo-yoing between the two. They’ve been relegated again and all bets should be on them finishing in an automatic promotion spot next season, otherwise why keep Dean Smith at the helm?

And right there is the biggest problem that the recently promoted will have because for all the hoopla of the most expensive final and the biggest prize money in a final, it means nothing. Even with the £100 odd million that Fulham, Bournemouth and the promotion play-off final winner will get is pennies to what a Premier League side will be able to spend and that's even a team who barely survived like Leeds United.

Does the 'most expensive final' even matter? © Twitter

Add that to the fact that all three are getting promoted with what is effectively a Championship level squad filled with only a handful of players capable of thriving at a Premier League level and the double-edged sword starts slicing it's way effortlessly beyond the flesh and through to the bone. All it means is that the cycle will continue, money will keep being earned and that doesn’t seem like all that big a problem, does it?

But let’s put it in context because while the newly relegated sides will earn around £40 million (first season down) and around £30 million (second season down), the clubs in the Championship will get between £7 million and £9 million in Tv money. That figure is why the standard rotation of clubs moving between the two tiers will more or less remain about the same unless someone makes more than a few drastic changes.

It’s essentially the bigger fish in the smaller pond moving up to the big pond, getting ripped to shreds and then having the sharks pay for surgery and a few upgrades before sending them back to the small pond to recover and keep the cycle moving. Because we know for a fact that neither Watford or Norwich City had the capability of surviving this season with questions even asked of Brentford.

The same questions were asked of Leeds United last term but the Peacocks, much like the Bees, banked on their philosophies and managerial talent to keep them up. But what it does is force the other clubs inside the Championship to go well beyond their means in order to try and compete which effectively means pushing themselves to the brink of financial collapse. That is not always the case as Port Vale - proved earlier this week - Luton Town and Huddersfield have shown us but it's the case most of the time.

But sure, that is mostly their fault because surviving in the second-tier mid-table mediocrity might be the highest that a few clubs can aim for, so why try and do anything more? Yet all this is just the problem because as of right now, a solution seems to be nowhere. There have been talks, there have been secret talks, clandestine meetings and all that, yet we’ve got nothing. No changes implemented, nothing attempted and the talks have even, reportedly, dissipated as of right now.

This might continue because as those in the EFL and Premier League continue to have their meetings, the yo-yoing will continue and the Premier League will, more or less, remain the same. Because right now there seems to be no solution at all. Even the League One and League Two’s attempts to introduce a salary cap was scrapped inside six months. These are the same two leagues that contain most of English football’s history, where clubs like Bury went bust, and yet they were so stubborn that it lasted less than six months.

Even the EFL’s Financial Fair Play laws don’t work because they’re based on how much money one earns, so a newly relegated side has more space to work with than say a club who has spent about 5 years in the second-tier. All that means is the circus will keep running and while it might be running at a loss, it’s not a high enough loss to force the owners and higherups in charge to actually do something.

It’s more the kind of loss that they can sweep under the carpet, stand on top of and claim that they were safe. But as Derby County can attest to, nobody is safe. And yet we’ll keep clapping, enjoying it and watching the chaos unfold while eating enough popcorn to feed a country. Because inconsistency has become the hallmark of second tiers across the footballing universe, where anything could happen, where consistency is frowned upon and where an undignified rush to the finale is the only way forward. 

Yet even that’s while we know who’ll probably go up but we’ll willfully suspend our notion of sense just to have fun. All the while around us, the football pyramid collapses, more clubs run their way into financial ruin and history disappears in a flash but the meetings and the secret talks continue while leading to nothing.

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