Championship advocates like to frame the division as the most competitive in the world. It may not have the glamour or quality of the Premier League but it does carry an unrivalled unpredictability, a competition where there really are no easy games.
Except a number of clubs are heading for financial ruin. Players have had wages deferred, staff have been laid off, points deductions have been handed down and Rick Parry, the EFL chairman, last year warned of a “£200million black hole” as a result of the pandemic in addition to more than half a billion of debt accumulated over the past decade.
Why, then, were so many of the clubs dead set against introducing a measure that was intended to preserve equality and sustainability?
Proposals for an £18million salary cap fell flat on their face following an eight-page letter jointly-composed by Bournemouth, Brentford and Norwich City that was circulated at a meeting of clubs last month.
The document was a clinical destruction of the plan, arguing that a hard cap would make clubs impotent and create an even greater chasm between those trying to reach the top tier and those who are already there.
Ensuring promoted teams can be competitive was a crucial pillar of the argument. Two of the clubs behind the letter were in the Premier League last season and the other sits second in the Championship table.
Their argument was so convincing that a significant number of rivals, perhaps half the league, indicated that they held similar views.
That meant the plans were dead in the water before confirmation arrived yesterday that the salary caps introduced for League One and League Two at the beginning of this season are in breach of the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee’s (PFNCC) constitution and will be scrapped.
So where does the EFL go from here? A softer cap with a number of qualifications remains a possibility in the future, the financial fair play (FFP) rules presently in use could be tweaked.
For Brentford head coach Thomas Frank stricter regulations are required going forward but a hard cap was never the solution. His primary issue with the proposal was around the transitional arrangements for clubs changing division, meaning promoted teams would not be in a position to compete having been tied to strict spending protocols and relegated sides would need to make drastic cuts.
“It’s really tricky because what do we do with the Premier League teams that are getting relegated or the teams getting promoted?” Frank told football.london . “If they can solve that solution so it is fair and even, it might be a good thing to do. But I’m in doubt.”
A hard cap may be considered especially unfair for Brentford, one of the country’s canniest transfer operators. They have made a habit of buying rough diamonds for small fees, polishing them for a couple of seasons and selling at a significant profit.
In the past eight years the West London side have made more than £150m from player transactions and their latest published accounts remarked that “it is the only way the club can currently remain financially sustainable.”
Several members of their current squad are on more than £20,000 per week but that should not be an issue when they are turning big profits in the transfer market.
Another central argument is that wage bills do not correlate to league places in the Championship to the same extent as the Premier League, where there is a great gulf in resources.
According to research from offthepitch.com, wages have explained 42 per cent of the variation in Premier League clubs’ final ranking since 2008 but in the Championship, wages explain just 16 per cent.
As Chrs Winn, head of the UCFB’s MSc in Football Business, tells football.london: “In the Championship the relationship between wage and success is pretty minimal over the past 10 years or so.
“The Championship is a competitive battleground. There are a lot of clubs with dwindling parachute payments, others have stadia and resources behind them, a lot of teams are of a similar size and as a result it turns out more than 50% of the factors are not wage related – it’s about quality of infrastructure, quality of managers, other qualitative measures such as fanbase size.
“There are a…