English Football Championship Betting Guide

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The Championship is the second tier of professional soccer in England, sitting one rung below the Premier League in the Football Association’s (FA) division hierarchy which contains four full-time professional leagues. The Championship has been re-branded twice over the years. When the Premier League started in 1992 it went from being known as the Second Division to being the First Division of the new setup with the Premier League being a standalone product.

At the start of the 2004-2005 season it was rebranded again as The Championship. It was known as the Coca Cola Championship for sponsorship reasons until 2010 where sponsorship was taken over by British energy company Npower. It is currently sponsored by SkyBet.

Benefiting from the huge popularity of football in England, the Championship is the best attended and wealthiest non- top flight league in the world.

Structure and Format

The Championship is made up of 24 teams from all over England (and Wales) who play each other twice over the course of the season, both home and away for a total of 46 matches. Typically the Championship starts a week before the Premier League and has more midweek matches to allow for the longer season. Midweek matches are easier to schedule as teams are unlikely to be involved in European competition as Premier League teams might be. As is standard nowadays, three points are awarded for a win with one for a draw and no points for a loss. At the end of the season, teams that finish on the same number of points are separated first by goal difference and, should that not break the tie, then by goals scored.

Promotion and Relegation

The three teams finishing with the lowest points totals are relegated to League One. At the top of the table, the two teams with the highest points totals are automatically promoted to the Premier League. There is a knockout playoff between the third to sixth place teams to determine the final promotion spot. Third place plays against sixth, and fourth plays against fifth. These ties are settled over two legs (home and away) with the away goals rule being used as tie breaker should the teams finish equal on aggregate. If away goals can’t separate them, the tie goes to extra time and penalties. The winners of the two ties contest the playoff final which usually takes place at Wembley Stadium in front of a crowd that typically exceeds 70,000.

Playoff finals can be hugely tense, as the winners stand to make a staggering £85m more than the losers through distribution of TV revenue.

Over the years, Ipswich town have made seven trips to the playoffs and only been successful on one occasion. Perhaps the hardest won promotion to the Premier League was by Birmingham City who finally won the Playoff Final after extra time and penalties after their fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs. Undoubtedly the most exciting match in playoff history happened in 1998, when Charlton and Sunderland drew 3-3 in normal time with both scoring another goal in extra-time and Charlton finally emerging victorious after a 7-6 victory on penalty kicks.

At the bottom of the table, the three teams with the lowest points totals are relegated to League 1 and replaced by three teams from League 1 which operates the same playoff structure to determine the third team to be promoted.

Teams generally spend less time in the Championship than one would expect. Coventry have the longest streak of Championship seasons with 11, followed by Ipswich Town with 10 and Cardiff City with 9. The average number of consecutive seasons for all other teams is just 3.4.

Sponsorship and Media Coverage

Though The Championship is a high quality league in it own right, its popularity is dwarfed by that of the Premier League. Nonetheless, the league gets a reasonable amount of coverage on English national TV. Pay TV broadcaster Sky Sports show a number of matches each year as well as all of the playoff matches which draw a large audience. ITV had the rights to Championship highlights for many years but BBC currently holds these rights. From 2013 Sky will take exclusive control of all Championship broadcasting rights.

Live matches are also shown in countries around the world, which is extremely unusual for a second tier league, and bookmakers also stream many matches for their live betting customers, but these can be accessed by anyone with an account.

Shirt sponsorship deals for Championship teams tend be with English brands rather than bigger companies with a global reach, but promoted teams often change sponsor as they can command a much better deal thanks to the international exposure that being a Premier League team brings.