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Congratulations to Ian Holloway and Blackpool then for securing that final play-off place ahead of Swansea City. I told you I was due one...
It must be particularly galling to have been in the play-off places since January and yet miss out completely come May. Just ask Cardiff fans. That’s two years running a team from the principality has bottled it – even though Swansea’s failings weren’t quite as spectacular as their near neighbours’ last term. There must be something in the water in those parts.
Blackpool even opened the door for Paulo Sousa’s men by failing to beat Bristol City, yet the hapless Swans couldn’t manage to see off middle-of-the-table-nothing-to-play-for Doncaster Rovers on their own patch. The table simply doesn’t lie. Swansea in seventh it is.
A real life tangerine dream then for Blackpool and a truly remarkable achievement for a club whose principle aim in August will have been simply to survive in the division.
Blackpool's season has exceded expectations
But there’s another point of focus which is deeply concerning to all clubs in the Championship, and indeed those below. That of the proposed new parachute payment plans.
The basic offer on the table to the Football League is to increase payments to clubs relegated from the Premier League from £23.4million over two seasons to £48million over four. £32million of that is paid during the first two years.
The sweetener for Championship clubs not recently relegated from the Premier League, and less so for those in League’s One and Two, is that their solidarity payments will increase. For some, these will be tripled up to £2.2million. What’s more the money can be spent as the club’s wish. There will be no obligation for instance for them to invest in community projects.
On the plus side the extra solidarity payments allows the non relegated clubs in the Championship increased stability. This isn’t quite the case for the clubs in the leagues below – who will receive smaller payments.
But ultimately it’s just going to make the Championship predictable. With such a massive increase in payments for relegated clubs there is simply going to be permanent yo-yo effect created in the division. The same clubs year in year out will be getting promoted and relegated. Maybe a pool of around six teams will feature.
It’s leaning that way already to an extent, but consider that this season there were at least 10-12 teams who had realistic expectations of promotion, or making the play-offs.
But these new plans will create a complete, devastating topple effect in the future. One thing is for certain – the likes of Burnley’s fairytale promotion last year won’t happen again anytime soon.
Burnley would benefit from the larger payments over the next four years
This is why this year’s play-offs are arguably more important to the teams involved than in previous years. Take one look at Blackpool and consider how great an achievement it has been for them to finish in the top six this year – it will be nigh-on impossible for them to match it in years to come if their rivals are given extra financial help.
Similarly for cash strapped, debt ridden Cardiff, and the relatively stable but hardly cash happy Midlands pairing of Leicester and Nottingham Forest.
It seems inevitable that these proposals will be accepted, despite some reluctance on behalf of the Football League to agree to them. And given the precarious position many clubs find themselves in the Championship and leagues below it is understandable that they want to give a green light to extra money coming in through solidarity payments.
But ultimately the revised parachute payments will make the gap between Premier League and Championship bigger for over half the clubs in the division, and a similar gulf will develop between the Championship and League’s One and Two.
Promotion to the Championship will simply become the pinnacle for those in the divisions below. Unless there is significant investment from outside sources, for many clubs the idea of progressing beyond the Championship will simply be a pipe dream.
Blackpool will undoubtedly be the neutrals’ choice for play-off success this season. The harsh reality is though that if that goal is not achieved now, there is a distinct possibility it never will be.
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