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Championship fans

By Craig Jones, May 13, 2020

The Financial Implications of Playing the Championship Behind Closed Doors

The future of the current football season is currently up in the air, with Premier League clubs meeting to discuss various proposals for completing the 2019-20 campaign.

Early June has been discussed as a restart date for the top flight, but what is the plan for those in the divisions below?

Playing behind closed doors is the only option right now if the season isn’t to be ended without completing the games, as has happened in some countries like the Netherlands and France.

As we move down the footballing pyramid clubs will face tougher hardship by having to play with no fans in attendance. With the likelihood that these games won’t be on TV, can clubs survive off streaming sales through the iPlayer function they have available to them.

The games are going to be much sought after, so people will buy them and watch. These funds won’t cover costs but could allow teams to get to the end of the season.

The Imbalance Between the Top & Bottom of the Championship

There isn’t another league in England that has the imbalance you’ll find in the Championship.

At the top of the league there are clubs like Leeds, West Brom and Fulham with huge parachute payments after relegation from the Premier League and/or crowds of 20,000+.

Down at the bottom you have clubs like Wigan, Barnsley and Luton whose crowds are far less than the top sides, and therefore earn far less money. What works in this league for one club, would have damaging effects on another.

This may leave the league with big problems when it comes to next season assuming the games go behind closed doors to finish this season. And there are also questions about whether that can continue next season?

The bigger clubs in this division could cope with a lack of income for a lot longer than the smaller clubs could.

There is also the number of fans willing to pay for streaming services should this be in place as expected. Big clubs have larger fanbases of their own and will appeal to some neutrals while smaller teams aren’t going to have that.

The Championship: A League Different to Every Other

This situation that the Championship is in makes it unique. Should the Premier League need to, clubs will be able to play the first half of next season behind closed doors. While it will hit the smaller teams much harder than the bigger ones, everyone will be fine.

League One and League Two are the opposite. If they play the remainder of this season plus the first half of next season behind closed doors then clubs will go out of business so they can’t do it.

The Championship is a mixture of both. We don’t know who the smallest clubs in the league next season will be, as we still have promotion and relegation to sort.

However, teams such as Luton, Barnsley, Wigan, Charlton and many more work in a similar way to League One clubs in terms of their budgeting. These teams, or those from League One that replace them, would need drastic measures to survive half a season behind closed doors.

In contrast, those at the top would need to adjust business plans this summer but would be able to complete the first half of the season behind closed doors. Many of these teams would be spending tens of millions during a usual summer transfer window, they would just have to cut back on that.

A Stale Transfer Market?

This is going to affect every single club up and down the country, but what is usually a vibrant transfer market in the Championship, is going to be almost non-existent.

Clubs face great uncertainty right now, and don’t have any idea how long this will all last. Whether you are the richest Championship club or one of those towards the bottom of the table, no one will want to spend money they may need to survive later down the line.

If anyone is brave (or should that be stupid?) enough to go out and make signings this summer, there could be some bargains about as lower clubs look to offload players in a bid to try and balance the books.

We are not going to see clubs going for the Premier League and spending big to try and bring in the final few pieces of the puzzle.

The entire world faces uncertainty right now, and football clubs in the Championship have their fair share of it themselves. What lies ahead for them is unknown, and an agreement to suit all business models in the league will be very hard to come by.