The Toughest League?
The English Championship is now officially the fourth most attended league in the whole world. With a staggering total audience of 9.3m, it now attracts a million more spectators than Italy's very own Serie A.
Even more revealing is the fact that out of the 40 teams that have been in the Premiership since 1992 17 will be in the Championship in 2008-9.
With the three teams relegated from the Premiership in 2006-7 failing to return at the first attempt (Charlton Athletic, Sheffield United and Watford), there will of course be six clubs in total with significant parachute payments. Added to them are teams such as Ipswich, Wolves and Queen's Park Rangers who have owners who are keen to pump major funds into their clubs in return for short-term success.
Of major concern has to be the finding in a recent report by football finance experts PFK that 78 per cent of clubs last year - the highest of any league - were not expecting to make any pre-tax profit. And furthermore 77 per cent of Chief Finance Officers claimed that they were coming under pressure to allow greater spending than the club could actually afford.
The report from last year showed a third of clubs were ready to increase the size of their first-team squads and 44 per cent said they would spend more on wages.
In the words of Stuart Barnsdall of PFK, 'Ultimately this is the league where the biggest risks may be taken. The gamble is how much you can afford to spend to win promotion and some gamblers may spend more than they can afford.'
So as Blackpool prepare to take their place in the world's toughest league for a well deserved second season will they finally get to compete on a level playing field with their opponents? Or will the third year in Valery Belokon's five year Premier League master plan turn out to be a nightmare for the Championship's very own Cinderella club?
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