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PL2 prospect threatens all that is great about hectic Championship

Norwich City have felt the full force of the Championship's intensity in recent weeks, with last week's 1-0 home loss to Stoke their seventh game in three weeks 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Norwich City have felt the full force of the Championship's intensity in recent weeks, with last week's 1-0 home loss to Stoke their seventh game in three weeks Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Perhaps it’s better if Leeds do finally get their longed-for promotion back to the top flight this season, after the comments of their owner sparked worries for supporters of Championship clubs this week.

Andrea Radrizzani has called for the Premier League to expand to two divisions, due to the financial disparity between the most-watched league in the world and the English second tier. It’s a cash chasm Norwich City fans are all too aware of.

“I think the model of the Championship should be reconsidered, because the turnover of owners is not really a healthy system,” Radrizzani reportedly told the Leaders Sport Business Summit in London.

“It is not sustainable to stay in the Championship. This model, and also the small money they (the EFL) generate from TV rights, split between 72 clubs, maybe they need to reconsider, and consider another way, to create a Premier League Two or something else that can be sustainable.”

The latest Leeds owner hoping for a return to the promised land has a vested interest of course, as his company Eleven Sports has picked up unsold broadcast rights deals in recent years to stream online and is currently in dispute with the EFL about streaming Spanish games during the traditional 3pm Saturday window.

He is not the first to speculate about a second tier of the Premier League and won’t be the last. If the elite see an opportunity to ensure that the likes of Leeds, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday can be part of their brand then they will.

If that ever becomes a closed shop and relegation is killed off in favour of a US franchise system, it will be the death of football as we know it. Fans will never allow it.

The high levels of support and top-flight history of the Canaries should ensure a place in any such rearrangement would be safe but the likes of Rotherham, Wigan and Millwall would have plenty of cause for concern.

Should Radrizzani get his wish there is no chance the Premier League will take on an extra two clubs for two divisions of 22 teams. It’s far more likely that it would be two tiers of 20. So that’s four teams facing the raw end of the deal straight away.

Leeds United's owner Andrea Radrizzani Piucture: Mike Egerton/PALeeds United's owner Andrea Radrizzani Piucture: Mike Egerton/PA

That’s how it is in Spain and France, with 20 in each. Italy is slightly different, with 20 in Serie A but Serie B is currently operating with 19 after three clubs were excluded due to financial issues. Germany goes a step further and has 18 in Bundesliga One and Two, to accommodate the much-hyped winter break of a month.

While coming under the financial umbrella of the Premier League may well benefit the Championship clubs included in any kind of future rebrand, the cultural impact would be huge.

Those of us following Norwich have just experienced seven games in three weeks. That was five wins, 10 goals scored, six conceded, cup progress sealed, Timm Klose sent off and then not sent off, Rammie the Ram rolling around at Derby, Teemu Pukki’s hot streak – all squeezed into 21 days and a couple of hours. It was hectic but it was brilliant.

For all the financial benefits which Radrizzani thinks could lie in wait, it is that intensity which makes the Championship such an enjoyable league for supporters.

Player welfare and energy may be different though. A few weeks ago City head coach Daniel Farke described the Championship as: “100 percent the toughest league in the world for the load.”

With another six games coming up in the space of three weeks after this international break – including the League Cup trip to Bournemouth – it’s easy to see why that statement holds up.

Whether a reduction in that physical load could benefit the national team in the long term, or clubs financially, requires deeper debate. However, I would contest that the financial effect of parachute payments has already brought the Championship closer to many of the Premier League teams, except the big boys of course. It’s the gap to League One which is growing.

A new TV rights deal negotiated by the EFL for 2019 through to 2024 is worth £600million, or £120m a season, an increase of 36pc on the current right deal. With each Championship club also benefiting from a £4.5m ‘solidarity’ payment from the Premier League – third tier clubs get £680,000 each – it could be argued the Championship is already PL2 in all but name.

Sunderland and Barnsley look on course to be the latest clubs to bounce straight back – as Wigan, Blackburn and Rotherham all did at the first time of asking last season. For clubs the size of Scunthorpe, Gillingham, Fleetwood and Accrington, the jump to the second tier is looking more and more daunting.

Plan B needed

There’s no Canaries game today but next weekend’s return to league action at Nottingham Forest will soon be back in focus.

With Teemu Pukki’s busy start to the season continuing with Finland during the break it makes sense to prepare for the trip to the City Ground with Jordan Rhodes as the starting striker.

Not only has the loanee been a bit unfortunate to be on the fringes recently, due to Pukki’s starring role, it can’t hurt for Daniel Farke to mix things up a little.

As impressive as the upturn in form has been, the intention for dominating possession makes it clear for opposition teams what they need to stop City. Boro weren’t ready for the Canaries’ quality, Reading, QPR and Wigan weren’t good enough to stop it but Derby grew wise after initially being caught out at Pride Park. Stoke were good enough, congesting midfield and pressing City to thwart their quality.

With Onel Hernandez back, an effective plan B could be crucial to this campaign.

Great news for Louis

Much of the attention of this week’s contract news has focused on how crucial it is to have youngsters Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons tied down to lengthy contracts.

Yet the extension for Louis Thompson is a great story after his injury troubles. To have the security of a deal through until at least 2022, so soon after missing 20 months of his career, must have been an extremely emotional moment for the 23-year-old.

Despite over 120 matches already on his CV, Thompson is essentially starting his career again and has had to be patient so far this season – largely due to the importance of Alex Tettey. A hamstring tweak at Ipswich forced him to miss a couple of weeks and he returned as right-back cover for the weary Aarons during the win over Wigan. His midfield starts have come in the cup whereas his only league start was on the right during that 3-0 loss to Leeds.

He was starting to look like a long-term successor to Tettey before his Achilles injury, now he has the chance to prove that potential.

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