Okay, this isn’t technically a ‘top’ European league, but in terms of average attendance, the Championship ranks fifth out of all of Europe’s football leagues, ahead of the likes of France’s Ligue 1, which is all the more impressive considering that it’s England’s second tier league. Once upon a time though, the Football League was England’s top football league competition. But then, 20 years ago, all of the First Division clubs resigned en masse to join the newly created Premier League in search of greater money. In the time since, it has transformed into one of the world’s most lucrative sporting competitions. The Football League meanwhile was left to soldier on as best it could. But like the Premier League, the Football League has also changed over the last twenty years; in recent times it’s become a fantastic alternative for fans sick of the stagnation at the top of the Premier League. So, what exactly is good about the Championship? Firstly, with each new season there are six new teams which enter the league, three of them are the relegated teams from the Premier League, and the other three are promoted teams from League One. Secondly, virtually all of the clubs are on a similar financial level, therefore you rarely get teams throwing vast sums of money at players or stockpiling their squads with superstars. In fact, all too often a Championship club will usually have any potentially good players poached by a Premier League club, although most of them don’t mind, as long as they receive a decent transfer fee
It’s probably one of the craziest football leagues around, one week your team can win 6-0, and then lose by the same score the next week. It’s truly a gambler’s nightmare, as surprises and upsets are very common. One of the best things I love about the Championship are its promotion playoffs. Let me explain more about these; at the end of each season, the teams that finishes first and second win promotion to the Premier League automatically. The team that finish first claims the league title and receives a very nice trophy. But the teams that finish third to sixth enter the playoffs which decide the final promotion place. It’s a very simple format, which may sound vaguely familiar to readers who follow American sports. The third placed team faces off against the sixth placed team, with the fourth and fifth placed teams contesting the other semi final, which are incidentally contested over the course of two matches or legs, as they are normally known. The team with the most goals scored across the two legs advances to the final. The final itself, is known as the most lucrative football match in the world, mostly because the winners stand to earn anywhere between 50 to 90 million pounds, as a result of being a part of the Premier League. It’s a one off, winner takes all match, if 90 minutes isn’t enough to separate the teams then it’s down to 30 minutes of extra time, and ultimately the dreaded penalty shootout, if the teams still can’t be separated. The playoffs not only add some much needed end of season drama, but also give hope to teams languishing in mid table, that a late season surge could put them into the playoffs, and maybe even the Premier League. For me, in my humble opinion, it’s the best football league in Europe, if not the world.