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?

The Championship is often called the toughest league in the world and whilst we fancy Real Madrid, Barcelona and Man City would probably make it look rather easy, there is no doubt that scrapping it out of England’s second tier takes a mighty effort. Back in May it was Wolves who were crowned champions as they romped to the Championship title. August comes round quickly, especially in a World Cup year, so the question now is, who will win the Championship in 2018-19? Will the three sides relegated from the Premier League be in the mix or will one of England’s sleeping giants get back where their fans think they belong?

Stoke – 5/1

The Potters were relegated after a long stay in the top flight during which they appeared in an FA Cup final and the Europa League. A lot of things went wrong for them last term as they ended the campaign down in 19th place, well adrift of safety. They have now got Gary Rowett in the dugout and the experienced, though young, former Everton player was a good appointment. The board have backed their man too and whilst some big names have left Stoke, they have brought in experienced Championship attackers in Benik Afobe and Tom Ince. That pair are 25 and 26 respectively and enter their peak years with points to prove. Stoke should certainly be in the mix but at odds of 11/2 they may be a shade short.

West Brom – 8/1

The second favourites for the title were also in the Premier League just a few months ago and like Stoke, West Brom had been in the top tier for a decent length of time. They managed just six wins last season and finished bottom of the pile, with a decent run at the end of the campaign giving their points tally a degree of respectability. Darren Moore performed well during his brief time in charge and did enough to persuade the owners to keep him on. Moore lacks experience but the players clearly took to his ways at the end of last season. They will miss Jonny Evans who moved to Leicester but at this level Kyle Bartley is an excellent replacement. We think the Baggies will make one or two more decent signing before the transfer window closes and as long as they start well they should thrive in the Championship.

Middlesbrough – 9/1

Boro boss Tony Pulis was previously in charge at both Stoke and WBA and would no doubt love to pip his former employers to the title. He is an incredibly talented manager who has performed miracles almost everywhere he has been. Fans may not love the style of football he employs but in the second tier his more direct approach and defensive organisation is likely to be hugely effective. He took over on Boxing Day last year and guided Boro up the table. They took 42 points from his 26 games in charge and although that might not quite be title form, it isn’t too far off. Pulis is a wheeler dealer in the transfer market and with a touch more class his already excellent squad looks good value for the title at odds of 9/1.

Who Will Be Promoted To The Premier League?

For our ante post look at the Championship title contenders we have only considered the three sides currently trading at single-digit odds. Obviously, Stoke, West Brom and Middlesbrough are all well fancied in the promotion market too. You can back Stoke to go up, be that as champions, the second placed club or via the play-offs, at odds of 6/4. The Baggies are available to bounce straight back at 5/2 with Boro a shade longer at 3/1.

As said, we only looked at those three clubs in terms of the title race but in truth we could have looked at another five. As ever, the battle at the top of the second tier is going to be hard fought, very tight and tough to call. That means that when it comes to the odds for this market, the contenders are even trickier to separate. There are a total of 13 clubs available at single digit odds for promotion, with several others who might still fancy their chances. In fact, whilst Bolton and Rotherham are big outsiders, the third least fancied side, Ipswich, are priced at just 12/1 to go up with some bookies!

Nottingham Forest – 10/3

Back in May Forest ended a difficult campaign way down in 17th place. With 53 points they were considerably closer to the bottom three than they were to the play-off places. Much can change in a few months though and several good signings plus the experience of Aitor Karanka, who took charge in January, have seen them installed as one of the favourites for promotion. Karanka is a defensive coach but took Boro into the Premier League and guided Forest out of the relegation zone last term. £15m man João Carvalho and experienced Championship striker Lewis Grabban (signed for almost £7m from Bournemouth) should add goals and 10/3 seems a fair price for the former European champions to be promoted.

Swansea – 4/1

The Swans are the only one of the relegated sides not to be strongly fancied for the title but they are deemed to have a good shot at promotion. The Welsh side’s seven year stay in the top flight ended dismally as they were beaten a league high of 21 times. The Swans appointed little known Graham Potter in June on the back of his excellent record managing in Sweden. His only previous management experience was nine years at Ostersund, during which he oversaw three promotions. Given the low morale at the club and the weak transfer activity at present (the Swans are currently £17m in profit from their dealings) it is hard to get too excited by Swansea’s promotion hopes.

Leeds United – 9/2

The madness at Leeds United continues, this time almost literally, as the West Yorkshire club have appointed Marcelo Bielsa as their new manager. Pep Guardiola may have called him the “best manager in the world” but his nickname is Loco Bielsa – Madman Bielsa! Bielsa had an incredible record as boss of his native Argentina and also Chile, whilst he then took Athletic Bilbao to a domestic and Europa League final. However, he is 63 now, speaks little English and has no experience of the English game. His ideas persist in the football of modern managerial greats but there is a feeling he may be yesterday’s man. Leeds fans are excited about the season ahead but that could turn sour, especially if the owners don’t back their manager in the transfer market.

Derby County – 9/2

Derby finished sixth last term but lost out in the play-offs and after flirting with the top six for a few seasons now they will feel this is the year they can kick on and earn promotion. 9/2 seems a fair price and there are certainly fewer unknowns with County than there are with Leeds at the same odds. That said, Derby also have a new manager and whilst Frank Lampard knows all about the English game, this is his first managerial assignment. He should have the brains for the job though and the acquisition of Jack Marriott looks shrewd, whilst we fancy more youngsters could join Mason Mount on loan from Lampard’s former club Chelsea.

Aston Villa – 9/2

Villa are also available at 9/2 and their managerial position makes betting on them right now a risky business. They were strongly linked with Thierry Henry before it seemed that fan opposition scuppered that move. Steve Bruce remains in charge at the time of writing and if he stays we fancy the Midlands outfit could do well. They were fourth last season and Bruce knows all about taking sides into the top flight. They lost the play-off final 1-0 to Fulham but if they can bounce back from that, keep the manager and add a couple of good signings 9/2 could look like cracking value.

Relegation Betting

From promotion to relegation and one end of the table to the other. These markets are the complete opposite of each other but such is the fierce competition in the Championship, a number of sides feature as possibles in both! What begins as a Premier League dream in August can quickly become a League One nightmare by May. These are the six sides the odds suggest are in most danger, however, there are a further three sides at single-digit odds for the drop and at least another three or four who might be looking over their shoulders.

Bolton - evens

Bolton retained Championship status by the skin of their trotters last term, ending one place and three points above the drop. Scoring goals was their biggest problem but they ultimately did well to recover after a terrible start to the season. More or less all of their dealings in the market, both in and out, have been free transfers and it’s clear that Phil Parkinson is up against it. With at least two of the three newly promoted sides looking relatively strong, Bolton could really struggle and evens for them to be relegated looks a decent bet.

Rotherham – 11/10

Rotherham came up to the second tier via the play-offs, having finished fourth in League One, a huge 17 points behind an automatic promotion place. They have been a bit of a yo-yo club in recent seasons but will hope that former club stalwart Paul Warne can steady the ship. The board were repaid for their faith when they refused to sack Warne following their 2017 relegation into League One, as the former striker led them straight back up. They have a small budget and unsurprisingly the majority of their signings are free or loans and there is no doubt at all that they will be in for a long slog this campaign.

Ipswich – 3/1

Bolton and Rotherham are clear favourites when it comes to the relegation betting but then there are a number of sides who, as said, may begin the season hoping to be promoted. Ipswich are 3/1 for the drop but as short as 12/1 in places to go up. That said, it’s clear what the bookies think is more probable. The Tractor Boys were comfortably in mid-table last term, finishing 12th but have lost their best defender and, more crucially, their manager, since then. Mick McCarthy left shortly before the end of last season, feeling a change was best for both parties. The odds men clearly don’t think it will be better for Ipswich and nor do we, with 3/1 well worth considering.

Reading – 4/1

It isn’t long ago that Reading were serious promotion contenders. They lost the 2017 play-off final on penalties to Huddersfield after finishing third and it was felt that in Jaap Stam they had a brilliant young manager. Football has a habit of surprising and last season shocked many who believed that Stam’s brand of progressive football would see Reading promoted. Instead they laboured to 20th place with a goal difference of -22. Stam was sacked in March and whilst the Royals survived, there was no major upturn in their results. Former Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and PSG assistant Paul Clement was appointed the same month, having been sacked by Swansea, but his ability as a number one is far from proven. We think they have made some decent signings already though and fancy they have just enough to stay up.

Hull – 7/2

The Tigers laboured to 18th last term but will feel they are heading upwards following some dark years. Making them sixth favourites for relegation, the bookies aren’t so sure things can only get better however. They have changed managers several times over the years but in Nigel Adkins they may just have the man who can stop the rot. He has set about bringing in some younger, fresher players and moving on some of the older members of the squad who didn’t deliver. Adkins did a brilliant job at Southampton and under his guidance the Tigers took 36 points from 29 games. He steadied the ship and we think that process will continue this term.

Blackburn – 9/2

Blackburn secured automatic promotion in good style last term, finishing second in League One some nine points clear of Shrewsbury. Tony Mowbray is a wily coach, looking to rebuild his own reputation as well as the status of the former Premier League champions. Securing back-to-back promotions isn’t beyond Rovers but their first target will certainly be survival. Their off-field situation remains far from ideal but even so, as long as they start the season well, they should be safe and 9/2 doesn’t appeal for them to be relegated.

Championship Top Goalscorer

Goals win games and if a team is to survive in the Championship, or push for promotion or the title, they will need a regular scorer, ideally a 20-goal striker for Premier League hopefuls. That said, the only men to reach that number last term played for clubs that didn’t go up! Derby’s Matej Vydra led the way with 21 goals, whilst Lewis Grabban notched 20 in total for Villa and Sunderland. Wolves, who ran away with the title, tended to spread their goals around, with top scorer Diogo Jota managing 17. Who will prove top gun this term though?

Benik Afobe (Stoke) - 7/1

Benik Afobe is the man Stoke think can fire them back into the top flight and the former Wolves man is reaching the stage of his career where it’s really time to start delivering. He has played in the Premier League 63 times, scoring 10 goals, but his overall strike rate just isn’t good enough. If Stoke deliver on their promise and win the title he should be given plenty of chances but we’re not sure he is a worthy favourite, albeit that 7/1 offers a handsome reward.

Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest) - 10/1

At 30 years of age, Grabban is a player for whom it may be a case of now or never. He’s another with Premier League experience and is another new signing that his club hope can fire in the goals to earn them promotion. Grabban did well last term, his 20 Championship goals spread over two clubs coming in 34 games. If he stays fit he could well do the business and odds of 10/1 are far more tempting than the shorter price on the market leader.

Matej Vydra (Derby) - 12/1

Anyone who fancies Derby will impress this term should jump at odds of 12/1 for Vydra to retain his Championship Golden Boot. The Czech international is still improving at the age of 26 and we fancy he could have a big season. He has all the tools to be a great player at this level and if he can kick on then odds of 12/1 look an absolute no-brainer as an each way bet.

Jay Rodriguez (West Brom) - 12/1

Jay Rodriguez is capped by England and was once linked with huge Premier League moves, which shows that somewhere in there is a very high class player. He is intelligent and skilful, as well as being a goalscorer and only recently 28, his best years could be ahead of him. In March 2014, when he was touted as a possible for England at the World Cup, he suffered a terrible knee injury. He didn’t play for 11 months and it’s questionable if he’s been the same since. How much of that is down to form and confidence and how much is due to the injury is a gamble West Brom wagered £13m on 12 months ago. 11 goals in 42 league and cup games wasn’t the worst return in a relegated side and Rodriguez certainly has a point to prove.

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.