Will the gap between Premier League and Championship keep growing?

It’s the promotion all clubs seek and few clubs gain, the dream that for so many will last for that one frustrating season before the plummet back down to a completely different planet. Yes, life in the Premier League is the impossible dream for many, but in its 22nd year, is it becoming even more unattainable?

Take this coming season for example, Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers have all been promoted from the Championship. This will be Leicester City’s first foray into the Premier League since the 2003/04 season – a decade. From there it was a three year stint in the Championship before yet another drop, to League One, for one season before spending the next five seasons in the second tier. So with a squad inexperienced at this level and funds that can’t even begin to match those that have been established in the Premier League for at least a few years, it’s not unthinkable that they will plummet right back down again.

Burnley are in a similar situation. While The Clarets have more recent Premier League experience than Leicester City they are again cursed with a small budget and a small squad to match. There’s no denying Burnley wouldn’t have been anywhere near promotion without the prolific Danny Ings and Sam Vokes (41 league goals between them) but two strikers don’t make a team and it’s hard to imagine they’ll be blessed with the same success in 2013/14.

So, are you seeing a bit of a pattern emerging here? There’s no escaping it, finances are the biggest hurdle to overcome for Championship clubs looking to enter the top tier. And it’s getting worse.

As of last year, parachute payments were dramatically expanded as a means of helping the clubs that go down cope with the loss of revenue that comes from dropping from the lucrative top tier. But, while this is seen as a benefit to those clubs, what about the ones that have been languishing in the Championship for much longer? For those clubs, the extra cash injection (currently around £60million over four seasons) just widens the financial gulf even further.

TV revenue used to be shared between all 92 Football League clubs, but now that expanded pot of money is virtually all shared between the 20 of the top tier. In a football world where money is everything there’s no way for most of the clubs in the lower leagues to keep up. It’s a class system with the elite pulling ever further away, their poorer cousins fighting over the few left over scraps.

Most, clubs that have been promoted from the Championship in recent memory and managed to survive their first campaign have succumbed to the infamous “Second Season Syndrome” – a recognised bane in the lives of many. Clubs do well in their first season in the top flight, still riding on the waves of success: this is it, the big time. Then a season later it’s all over and it’s a scrape to finish the season with any remaining shred of dignity, let alone any hope of staying up. Just look at Birmingham in 2010/11, and that was with the League Cup success.

So why? Is it a case of burn out? Of having to do so much in such a short space of time to keep up with the big guns? Under resourced clubs unable to keep up a squad with the strength or depth required by the Premier League? When key players are injured there’s not been the time to get in the seemingly endless back-up of talent available to most Premier League sides. Injuries and exhaustion from lack of squad rotation, then, inevitably without the firepower in the side, results dwindle, the side begins to plummet right back down to the dreaded drop zone.

It all comes right back down to finances and the ever-widening gulf between top tier clubs and second tier clubs. With the new parachute payments are we going to be cursed to seeing the same six clubs in an endless limbo of promotion and relegation. Will it lead to clubs further down the pecking order in the Championship becoming yet more embittered and frustrated? The at times predictable Premier League becoming even more so? At this rate the only answer to that is: probably.

It’s the classic catch 22 – unless a club is well established in the Premier League with the infrastructure and playing power behind it, it’s going to be nigh on impossible to compete with the clubs that do and stay a part of it for any great length of time. As the likes of Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion fight to prove me wrong, for the 24 clubs of the Championship, the chase for the almost impossible dream continues.

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