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The Championship


Real Fears For Southampton's Future

Real fears are being expressed that Southampton Football Club may not exist by the end of the season. This is despite the fact that it has a new stadium and plays in a large and relatively prosperous city. The club's mountain of debt incurred as the result of building St.Mary's, which required continuing Premiership status to service it, makes the club unattractive to a potential buyer, even if there were any around. This is not a situation where a consortium of fans can easily bail out the club, although that may be what eventually happens.

Big Profit For Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle made a profit of £1m last year despite funding the highest wage bill in the club's history. Accounts for the year ending 31 May 2008 show the Pilgrims turned round a loss of more than £700,000 in the previous 12 months to £1.1m profit. The Pilgrims made £3.8m profit on the transfer market last year, enabling them to finance their highest ever wage costs despite their gate income becoming the fourth lowest in the Championship. Chairman Paul Stapleton was frank about the inevitability of transfer fees being used to bail out the club as a trading concern.

Where The Recession Hits Football

Recessions, even prolonged and deep ones, do not hit all businesses equally. Domino's Pizza is an example of a business that has been boosted by the recession as cautious consumers substitute a takeaway for a meal out. Cinemas have also been doing good business, although attendances may have boosted by the success of particular films. The supermarkets that compete on price rather than quality or service have also been doing well. On the other hand, the motor vehicle industry has been hit hard. And estate agents, never the most popular businesses, have also taken a pounding.

Plymouth Argyle Feel The Pinch

The credit crunch is making itself felt at Championship club Plymouth Argyle in terms of falling attendances - although some locals blame the standard of football on offer at Home Park. Chairman Paul Stapleton has revealed that cost-cutting measures are being considered, but he also believes that Argyle are better positoned than many Football League clubs to cope with the economic crisis. And Stapleton admitted that the money-spinning FA Cup third round tie at Arsenal on January 3 was coming at a very opportune time.

Mawhinney's Salary Cap Plan

Lord Mawhinney, chairman of the Football League, is proposing to extend the salary cap that already operates in Coca-Cola League Two. It is linked to the percentage of turnover. Thus, a club arriving from the Premiership with parachute payments, would have the best part of £12.5m to spend on wages, while the likes of Doncaster Rovers would have roughly £3.5m. So the three relegated clubs would very likely to be returned to the Premiership each season because the others are effectively handicapped.

Gap Between Championship And Lower Leagues To Widen

The Championship will get a big boost next season from a new television contract, but the gap between it and the lower divisions of the Football League will widen. This may revive talk of a two division Premiership with no or limited promotion to the lower leagues. A new contract will increase the broadcasting income of the Football League from £32m a year at present to £88m. Under a long-established formula, Championship clubs will receive 80 per cent of the extra money from BSkyB and the BBC, but League One and Two will receive only 12 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

Promoted Teams Need Careful Business Strategies

Getting promoted to the Premiership can seem like a bonanza, but getting relegated can bring a cold dose of reality. Once the parachute payments run out, life becomes very difficult, as clubs like Leicester and Southampton have found. Recently we reported in depth on the prudent strategy being followed by Hull City. But what of the other two newly promoted teams? For Stoke City it's a long awaited return to the top flight, but West Bromwich Albion have the reputation of being a yo-yo team.

Sheffield Wednesday Top Of Empty Seats League

Sheffield Wednesday are top of the Championship empty seats league with Hillsborough the most under-occupied stadium. Average attendances at home games is 19,005, leaving the 39,814 capacity stadium only 47.7 per cent full in the four games played there. Top of the Championship stadium filling attendance league are Cardiff City, although this shows that a lot depends on how big your ground is. On average Ninian Park is 93.3 per cent full even though their average gate is just 19,031.