Championship Betting Tips

The Championship is the second tier of English football and is hosted by the English Football League (EFL). It’s been about in its current form since 2004, but as the top league as ran by the EFL, has actually been about since 1892, formerly that of Division 2, before then Division 1 following the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

The league is often referred to as the wealthiest non-top flight football division in the world and is actually one of the richest in Europe in its own right, with more money coming in than a lot of the top-tier European leagues.

Who Will Win The Championship?

Last Updated: 9th September 2019
Norwich City Football Club Gates
pittaya, flickr

With the 2019-20 EFL Championship now in full swing, now seems like a good time to check out the contenders. Surprisingly, Swansea City are the early leaders, sitting at the top of the second tier table, unbeaten after six games. Charlton are also unbeaten after six games and sit second at the time of writing, but few expect them to maintain their challenge as the season develops. As expected, Leeds United are up in the mix, while West Bromwich Albion and Fulham are not too far behind. We should be in for a cracking title race in the Championship this season, and here we assess the title, play-off and relegation prospects of many of the teams involved.

Leeds United – 11/8

Before a ball was kicked, Marcelo Bielsa’s boys were the Championship title favourites. Despite a setback in their last match before the first international break, United are still the bookies’ pick to win the league. At the time of writing, the Whites are available at odds of just 11/8 to finish at the top of the pile in the second tier and secure their long-awaited return to the top flight.

Leeds got off to a flying start, winning four and drawing one of their opening five. However, they did lose at home in their last match to fellow high flyers Swansea. Leeds will be hoping to bounce back at the first time of asking when they face Yorkshire rivals Barnsley after the break. After suffering heartbreak in the play-offs last season, can Leeds get promoted this time around? Their fans certainly won’t be counting any chickens after late-season disappointments in previous seasons.

Fulham – 9/2

On paper, Fulham arguably have the strongest squad in the Championship. Scott Parker has been very shrewd with his transfer business, with the likes of Harry Arter, Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert arriving at Craven Cottage in the summer. However, their best bit of business was persuading goal-machine Aleksandar Mitrovic to stay put at the Cottage.

Parker’s boys have played some scintillating stuff at the start of this season, winning half of their six matches. The Cottagers are in sixth place at the moment having amassed a total of 10 points, six points off the top. You can get Fulham at odds of 9/2 to win the league at the time of writing, which looks decent value at this stage.

West Bromwich Albion – 8/1

West Bromwich Albion pulled off a real coup by bringing in former Croatia and West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic to The Hawthorns this summer. The Baggies, who are priced at 8/1 to win the division, have started well, winning three and drawing three of their opening six. In fact, West Brom are one of only three teams left in the Championship with an unbeaten record.

Albion, who finished fourth before losing in the play-offs to rivals Aston Villa last season, brought in the likes of Charlie Austin, Kenneth Zohore, Grady Diangana and Romaine Sawyers, plus a number of other quality signings during a successful transfer window. West Brom are well worth keeping an eye on this season in the race for promotion.

Swansea City – 10/1

Swansea have without doubt been the surprise package so far. The Swans went into the first international break as the Championship leaders, winning five and drawing one of their opening six. Swansea’s 1-0 win over Leeds at Elland Road last time out took them three points above United and two clear of second place Charlton Athletic.

Graham Potter moved to Brighton and Hove Albion, with Steve Cooper taking over at the Liberty Stadium in the summer. To say that the Welshman has hit the ground running is an understatement. However, there is some doubt amongst pundits about whether or not the Swans can sustain a title challenge. At the moment, Swansea are available at odds of 10/1 to win the Championship title.

Who Will Be Promoted To The Premier League?

Last Updated: 9th September 2019
Pitch Invasion by Stoke City Fans Following Promotion
TubesSCFC, Wikimedia Commons

With so many clubs pushing for a top six finish this season, the race for the play-offs is set to be thrilling. The likes of Cardiff City, Bristol City, Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton – plus one or two others – all have genuine aspirations of finishing in the top six. As it stands, Leeds, Fulham, West Brom and Swansea are all odds-on to make the play-offs. Could we see one or two surprise packages in the promotion mix this season?

Cardiff City – 11/2 (8/13 top 6 finish)

After dropping down from the Premier League, Neil Warnock’s Cardiff will be hoping for an instant return to the top flight this term. The Bluebirds have had a mixed start to their Championship season, winning two, drawing two and losing two of six. In their last game before the international break, Cardiff held Fulham to a 1-1 draw in the Welsh capital. Several players have arrived at the club and others have left the Cardiff City Stadium since their relegation, but City should be in the promotion mix this season. Cardiff are priced at odds of 7/4 to finish in the play-offs and 11/2 to be promoted.

Bristol City– 13/2 (12/5 top 6 finish)

Bristol City made a slow start to their season, losing to Leeds and drawing with Birmingham City. However, the Robins have been in red-hot form since then, picking up 10 points from their last four. Lee Johnson’s side had one of their best seasons for quite some time last year, going on to claim an eighth place finish. However, Bristol City will be hoping for a play-off position at the very least this time around. The Robins are available at 13/2 for promotion, but there’s better value in the price of 12/5 for Bristol City to finish in the top six.

Brentford – 6/1 (12/5 top 6 finish)

Brentford have been tipped to have a good season under Thomas Frank, but the Bees have made an indifferent start to their campaign. The London side picked up just one win from their opening five, losing three times along the way. However, they did secure an impressive 3-0 win over Derby County before the international break. Romaine Sawyers and Neal Maupay have moved on, but Frank still has a very strong squad at his disposal. At 12/5, Brentford look a good bet to finish in the top six. Meanwhile, you can get them at a fair price of 6/1 for promotion.

Sheffield Wednesday – 8/1 (3/1 top 6 finish)

Sheffield Wednesday’s pre-season was disrupted when Newcastle United came calling for their now-former boss Steve Bruce. However, caretaker boss Lee Bullen has guided the Owls to three Championship wins so far. Having said that, Wednesday have lost their last two games, slipping down to 11th in the table as a consequence. It is difficult to predict what kind of season the Owls are set to have, but they are priced at 3/1 to finish in the play-offs and 8/1 for promotion, which might well be big enough to tempt a few punters.

Charlton Athletic – 18/1 (7/1 top 6 finish)

Lee Bowyer’s Charlton, last term’s EFL League One play-off winners, have started life back in the Championship in excellent form. At the time of writing, the Addicks have lost just one regular season game since February. Charlton have all the momentum in the world, and they have kicked off this season with four wins and two draws. The Londoners, who sit second at the moment, are available at the eye-opening odds of 18/1 for promotion and 7/1 for to finish in the top six. Will Athletic be the surprise package in the promotion race this season? Few think they will sustain their fine form, but if you think they might, now is the time to get on them at a chunky price.

Relegation Betting

Last Updated: 9th September 2019
Football Player Conceding Goal

Ipswich Town, Bolton Wanderers and Rotherham United were the three relegated teams from the Championship last season. Luton Town, Barnsley and Charlton replaced them in the second tier. At the time of writing, Wigan Athletic are the favourites for the drop, with Barnsley, Huddersfield and Hull City also tipped to struggle. Stoke City, who are priced at just 5/1 for relegation, are bottom of the pile at the moment.

Wigan Athletic – 11/8

Paul Cook’s Wigan Athletic got off to a perfect start, beating Cardiff 3-2 in a thriller at the DW Stadium on the opening weekend of the season. Since then, though, the Latics have taken just one point from five games. Before the international break, Wigan did manage to hold Barnsley to a goalless draw at the DW. Wigan finished in 18th place last term, and they will surely be involved in another relegation scrap this season. You can get odds of 11/8 for Cook’s boys to be relegated.

Barnsley – 7/4

Barnsley finished runners-up to Luton in League One last season. The Tykes had an outstanding year under Daniel Stendel, winning 26 games and accumulating a very decent total of 91 points. Like Wigan, Barnsley also started with a win, as they beat Fulham 1-0 at Oakwell. Since then, the Tykes have drawn two and lost three of their following five in the Championship. It could be a long season for Barnsley, and they are available at 7/4 for relegation.

Huddersfield Town – 11/4

It has been a miserable last year or so for Huddersfield. The Terriers are on the lookout for a new manager after the sacking of Jan Siewert recently. Huddersfield have begun their campaign with five losses and one draw. Meanwhile, Town have won just one league game since last November. Huddersfield are on a downward spiral, and they could drop down ever further if they are not careful. Odds of 11/4 for the club to be relegated to League One at the end of the season seems a fair price.

Hull City – 2/1

On their day, Hull are capable of beating anyone in the Championship. Unfortunately for the Tigers, those days are not frequent enough. Hull, who are currently priced at odds of 2/1 for the drop, have started their Championship season with one win, two draws and three defeats, leaving them in 20th place after six fixtures. After Nigel Adkins moved on in the summer, Grant McCann is the new man in charge at the KCOM Stadium. The Belfast-born boss could have his work cut out this season.

Stoke City – 5/1

Stoke have made an abysmal start to their Championship campaign. Not so long ago, the Potters were an established Premier League club, but they now find themselves bottom of the Championship table. Nathan Jones is a man on the brink, as Stoke have taken just one point from their opening six league matches. With Bristol City and Brentford to come in their next two games, Jones’ days at the bet365 Stadium could be numbered. The bookies are pricing Stoke at 5/1 for relegation, which looks a reasonable price even at this early stage.

Championship Top Goalscorer

Last Updated: 9th September 2019
Football in Net

There are several top strikers in the Championship these days. After six league matches, Borja Baston, Lyle Taylor, Jordan Hugill and Aleksandar Mitrovic all have five goals each, while five players have netted four times. Get ready for what promises to be an exciting battle in the race for the Championship Golden Boot this season.

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) – 7/2

In spite of plenty of interest from other clubs, Mitrovic opted to stay at Craven Cottage in the summer, signing a new five-year deal with the Cottagers. The Serbia international has already been in the goals this season, scoring five times in six matches. To no surprise, Mitrovic is the 7/2 favourite to finish top scorer this term, and assuming he doesn’t get injured, he could be hard to stop.

Patrick Bamford (Leeds United) – 7/1

Patrick Bamford has been a top Championship goalscorer for quite some time now. If he can stay fit, the 26 year old will guarantee goals for Leeds this season. The striker has already helped himself to four league goals so far. At this moment in time, Bamford is available at odds of 7/1, a price well worth taking advantage of.

Borja Baston (Swansea City) – 12/1

Swansea’s Baston is a man reborn. The Spaniard was heavily linked with a move away from the Liberty Stadium, but five goals in six league matches has quickly scuppered those plans. Before this term, the former Atletico Madrid man had never settled in South Wales. At a price of 12/1, Baston could be worth backing in the race be the Championship’s top scorer.

Karlan Grant (Huddersfield Town) – 14/1

The only positive to come out of Huddersfield so far this season is the form of Karlan Grant. The 21 year old has scored against Derby, Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and Luton so far. As long as Grant keeps scoring, Town always have a chance to turn things around. Grant is available at the big price of 14/1 to finish top of the charts.

Lyle Taylor (Charlton Athletic) – 16/1

Taylor was a big hit in League One last season, scoring 21 league goals as Charlton gained promotion. Taylor has hit the ground running this term in the Championship, netting five times already. The Addicks ace is an outsider at odds of 16/1, but Taylor is definitely worth keeping tabs on as the season progresses.

As stated, the league is the highest ranked league that is run by the English Football League following the formation of the Premier League. The Championship was renamed from Division 1 to try and boost the profile of the league and whilst it will always be the second ranked tier of English football, is a vastly competitive league and is often made up of teams that have previously won the top flight and even those that have had success across Europe.

The league has always had a sponsor assigned to in some form since its inauguration in 2004. The initial one was that of Coca Cola, who held a contract from 2004 through to 2010. It then changes hands to that of Npower from 2010 to 2013, before switching again in 2013 to Sky Bet, who have a deal in place to run through to 2019.

The sponsors often have some input on how the league is named as well. Sky Bet initially were refereeing to it as the Sky Bet Football League, but from 2016 changed this to the Sky Bet EFL.

League Structure

The league starts with 24 teams in total and play throughout the course of a season, running from August through to May. As with most league, each team will play each other twice, both home and away, which then cumulates in a total of 46 games for each team, some 8 more than the Premier League teams would play, causing for a fairly congested fixture schedule.

Games are usually played on a Saturday afternoon and Tuesday night, but TV coverage means that games can be played any day of the week, usually taking advantage of the new Friday night coverage on Sky Sports and also Sunday afternoon slots, where Premier League games aren’t taking place.

The games are played out over the course of 90 minutes and teams will be awarded 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and zero for a loss. The rankings within the league go on total points, then goal difference, goals scored and head to head records for the season, where needed.

As the season closes, the top 2 ranked teams in the league will be awarded automatic qualification into the Premier League. The team finishing first will be crowned champions. The next 4 teams in the league, ranked from 3rd through to 6th will go into the play offs at the end of the season.

The play offs will be played out in order of league ranking. So, 3rd will play 6th and 4th will play 5th. The semi-finals are played over two legs, with each team playing once at home and then away. The winner is the team with the best aggregate score. In the event of a tie, away goals will not count and teams will play out extra time and penalties if needed in the second leg.

Play Off Final

The play off final is said to be the richest football match in the world. The reason behind this is that the money that the promoted team will get is worth around £100million in sponsorship money from the Premier League alone.

To put that into perspective, in 2017/18 season Wolves finished top of the league, winning around £8million in prize money from the EFL. West Brom, who finished bottom of the Premier League in the same season received almost £100million, showing a huge gulf in payments. To put that into perceptive, the winners of the Champions League, thought to be the elite European club coemption, take home around £40million in prize money.

The game takes place at Wembley Stadium and is a one-off game. The winners will be promoted to the Premier League and the losers will remain in the Championship for the following season.

Relegation

Three teams will be relegated from the Championship each year. These are the three lowest ranked teams in the league and with the lowest points. Like promotion, if two or more teams are tied on the same points then goal difference, goal scored and head to head record will come into play.

Transfer Window

Championship teams are only allowed to sign players within a dedicated timeframe each season, known as the transfer window. It’s often an exciting for clubs and fans as it allows them to improve on current squads, the flip side being that they may lose their better players.

What you will often find is that the Premier League teams will come in and lure the better players away from the league, allowing them to play at the pinnacle of English football. A much greater emphasis is placed upon being able to nurture home grown talent, although the money involved with the league still means that hefty transfers fees can be paid. As an example, Wolves smashes the transfer record for a Championship player in 2017 when they signed Ruben Neves for £15.8million.

Other notable championship transfers include Helder Costa to Wolves in 2017 for £12.8million, Ross McCormack to Aston Villa in 2016 for £12million and Matt Ritchie to Newcastle in 2016 for £12million.

The window officially opens in early May, after the completion of the league format. This allows clubs to sign domestic players only. It’s worth noting that any players signed by teams still in the play-off will not be eligible to represent that team until after those games. The window for international players will officially open at the start of June and runs for around 12 weeks.

The window then closes in early August, prior to the start of the season. This has been changed for the 2018/19 season as previously it would close at the end of August, meaning that al transfers need to be done before the start of the first game.

Teams are allowed to still sign loan players up until the 31st August however and are also able to register players who are without a club until the same time. Players may be transferred out to any team who’s window is still open.

Prize Money

The gulf in prize money between the Championship and the Premier League, as already highlighted is substantial. Whilst the Premier League will pay out money based on their final league positions, the Championship actually pay out a flat fee to all clubs.

The fee is split though, based on the ranking prior to the start of the Championship season. This will include a first tier and second tier. First tier teams will be awarded a basic payment of £2.3milllion and a £4.5million solidarity payment, whilst second tier teams are paid £2.084million and £4.3million, respectively.

In the 2017/18 season, the team that won the league – Wolves – and the team that finished bottom of the league – Sunderland – were both initially tier 1 teams, therefore receiving exactly the same amount in prize money, even though they finished some 23 places apart. The numbers are a little skewed as money is awarded every time they appear on live TV, of which Wolves were on more, however as a basic payment, they were the same.

History of the Championship

The Championship has been ever-present in the English football game since 2004. In fact, in its first season under the current naming rights and format, the league was the fourth highest attended league in Europe, behind only that of the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga. Two of the major scalps were that of Serie A and French Ligue 1.

The numbers are skewed slightly in that the Championship has 24 teams compared with 18 to 20 for the other leagues but given that it’s the second-tier of English football, was still impressive.

Southampton were the first winners of the league under its then new branding and with them, Wigan sealed the other automatic qualifying spot, gaining entry to the top flight of English football for the first time in their history.

In 2007, Leeds United were the first team in the league to go into administration due to overspending and subsequently unable to pay outstanding bills. As a result, they were deducted 10 points, which meant they would be relegated as a result.

The 2016/17 season saw two former powerhouses of English football enter the league in that of Aston Villa and Newcastle United. As a result, the league saw the highest cumulative attendance in their history, with just over 11million, with almost 2million of those coming from both Newcastle and Aston Villa alone.