The English Football League Championship (often referred to as the Championship for short or the Sky Bet Championship for sponsorship reasons) is the highest division of the English Football League (EFL) and second-highest overall in the English football league system, after the Premier League. Each year, the top finishing teams in the Championship are promoted to the Premier League, and the lowest finishing teams are relegated to League One.
The Football League Championship, which was introduced for the 2004–05 season, was previously known as the Football League First Division (1992–2004), and before that was known as Division Two (1892–1992). The winners of the Championship receive the Football League Championship trophy, the same trophy as the old First Division champions were handed prior to the Premier League's inception in 1992.
The Championship is the wealthiest non-top flight football division in the world and the seventh richest division in Europe. With an average match attendance for the 2016–17 season of 20,130 the Championship ranked second after the German 2. Bundesliga as the most-watched secondary league in the world.
In the 2016–17 season, Newcastle United were the division champions and Brighton & Hove Albion were the runners up. Huddersfield Town will join them being promoted via the 2017 EFL Championship play-off Final. At present, Ipswich Town hold the longest tenure in the Championship, last being out of the division in the 2001–02 season when they were relegated from the Premier League.
Barnsley have spent more seasons at the second level of English football than any other team and on 3 January 2011 became the first club to achieve 1,000 wins in the second level of English football with a 2–1 home victory over Coventry City. Barnsley are also the first club to play 3,000 games in second-level league football (W1028, D747, L1224).
In its inaugural season of 2004–05, the Football League Championship announced a total attendance (including postseason) of 9.8 million, which it said was the fourth highest total attendance for a European football division, behind the FA Premier League (12.88m), Spain's La Liga (11.57m) and Germany's Bundesliga (10.92m), but beating Italy's Serie A (9.77m) and France's Ligue 1 (8.17m). The total figures were aided somewhat by the presence of 24 clubs, compared to 20 clubs in both Serie A and Ligue 1, and 18 in the Bundesliga. A major factor to the competition's success comes from television revenue.
Sunderland won the league in the first season since re-branding, with Wigan Athletic finishing second to win promotion to the top flight of English football for the first time in their history. They had only been elected to the Football League twenty-seven years previously; playing in the fourth tier as recently as eleven years prior to their promotion. West Ham United won the first Championship play-off final that season, following a 1–0 victory over Preston North End at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. In the 2005–06 season, Reading broke the Football League points record for a season, finishing on 106 points, exceeding the record set by Sunderland in 1999.
Sunderland won their second Championship title in three seasons in the 2006–07 season. On 4 May 2007, Leeds United became the first side since the re-branding of the division to enter administration; they were deducted ten points and were relegated as a result. On 28 May 2007, Derby County won the first Championship play-off final at the new Wembley Stadium, beating West Bromwich Albion 1–0 in front of nearly 75,000 spectators. West Brom would go on to win the Championship in the following season.
On 30 September 2009, Coca-Cola announced they would end their sponsorship deal with The Football League (now English Football League) at the end of the 2009–10 season. On 16 March 2010, npower were announced as the new title sponsors of the Football League, and from the start of the 2010–11 Football League season until the end of the 2012–13 season, the Football League Championship was known as the Npower Championship.
On 24 May 2014, the Championship play-off final between Derby County and Queens Park Rangers saw the highest crowd for any Championship fixture - 87,348 witnessed a Bobby Zamora stoppage time winner for QPR to win promotion for the London club.
For the 2016–17 season, the Football League was re-branded as the English Football League. That season, Rotherham United recorded the lowest points total in Championship history - winning just 23 points from their 46 matches. The league had an cumulative attendance of more than eleven million - excluding play-off matches - with more than two million watching Newcastle United and Aston Villa home fixtures alone; both of whom had been relegated from the Premier League in the previous season. This was included in the highest crowds for the second to fourth tier in England since the 1958–59 season.
The league comprises 24 teams. Over the course of a season, which runs annually from August to the following May, each team plays twice against the others in the league, once at 'home' and once 'away', resulting in each team competing in 46 games in total. Three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. The teams are ranked in the league table by points gained, then goal difference, then goals scored and then their head-to-head record for that season. In the event that two or more teams finish the season equal in all these respects, teams are separated by alphabetical order, unless a promotion, relegation or play-off place (see below) is at stake, when the teams are separated by a play-off game, though this improbable situation has never arisen in all the years the rule has existed.
At the end of the season, the top two teams and the winner of the Championship play-offs are promoted to the Premier League and the bottom three teams are relegated to Football League One. The Football League Championship play-offs is a knock-out competition for the teams finishing the season in third to sixth place with the winner being promoted to the Premier League. In the play-offs, the third-placed team plays against the sixth-placed team and the fourth-placed team plays against the fifth-placed team in two-legged semi-finals (home and away). The winners of each semi-final then compete in a single match at Wembley stadium with the prize being promotion to the Premier League and the Championship play-off trophy.
From 2009 to 2012, Sky Sports had the rights to broadcast 65 live matches, it should be noted that not all the games of the second division are seen live on sky sports channels dedicated to football, live coverage of both legs of both play-off semi finals and the play-off final live. Channel 5 show highlights every Saturday night: it shows all the goals plus penalty awards. The BBC had the rights to show 10 first choice live games for the regular season as well as the rights to show a highlight show. The deal is on a three-year contract and is worth £264m that will mostly be paid by Sky. Sky Sports took exclusive live rights to the Football League from 2013, having signed a three-year deal worth £195m, representing a 26% reduction in revenue from the previous joint deal between Sky and BBC. The deal included 75 live league games, all the play-off matches, 15 League Cup ties (including both semi-finals and the final) and selected Johnstone's Paint Trophy matches. The BBC held onto the highlights package. On 5 May 2015, it was announced a deal had been struck with the Football League and Channel 5 to show match footage, including every single goal, from matches in all three divisions of the Football League: this is currently (2017–18 season) broadcast in a 60-minute show titled Football on 5: The Championship which airs at 9.00pm every Saturday, followed by Football on 5: Goal Rush (featuring goals from League One and League Two matches) at 10.00 pm for 30 minutes. (These also air occasionally during the week). Channel 5 also broadcasts highlights of the League Cup and League Trophy.
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Local radio stations with a local football team in The Championship usually offer audio coverage of every live game. BBC Sport holds exclusive national rights to broadcast Championship matches live to the whole of the United Kingdom; most matches are broadcast on local BBC radio stations for the area of their respective teams while some headline matches are broadcast on national stations, either 5 Live or 5 Live Sports Extra under their 5 Live Sport banner. Most matches broadcast on BBC radio are also broadcast online to UK users on the BBC website.
talkSPORT also has rights to broadcast each of the Football League Play-off Finals.
The following 24 clubs are competing in the Championship during the 2017–18 season.
|Club||Finishing position last season||Location||Stadium||Capacity|
|Aston Villa||13th||Birmingham||Villa Park||42,785|
|Birmingham City||19th||Birmingham||St Andrew's||30,016|
|Bolton Wanderers||2nd in League One (promoted)||Bolton||Macron Stadium||28,723|
|Brentford||10th||London (Brentford)||Griffin Park||12,763|
|Bristol City||17th||Bristol||Ashton Gate||27,000|
|Burton Albion||20th||Burton upon Trent||Pirelli Stadium||6,912 (2,034 seated)|
|Cardiff City||12th||Cardiff||Cardiff City Stadium||33,300|
|Derby County||9th||Derby||Pride Park Stadium||33,597|
|Fulham||6th||London (Fulham)||Craven Cottage||25,678|
|Hull City||18th in Premier League (relegated)||Kingston upon Hull||KCOM Stadium||25,404|
|Ipswich Town||16th||Ipswich||Portman Road||30,300|
|Leeds United||7th||Leeds||Elland Road||37,900|
|Middlesbrough||19th in Premier League (relegated)||Middlesbrough||Riverside Stadium||34,742|
|Millwall||6th in League One (promoted via play-offs)||London (South Bermondsey)||The Den||20,146|
|Norwich City||8th||Norwich||Carrow Road||27,220|
|Nottingham Forest||21st||Nottingham||City Ground||30,576|
|Preston North End||11th||Preston||Deepdale||23,408|
|Queens Park Rangers||18th||London (Shepherd's Bush)||Loftus Road||18,360|
|Sheffield United||1st in League One (promoted)||Sheffield||Bramall Lane||32,702|
|Sunderland||20th in Premier League (relegated)||Sunderland||Stadium of Light||49,000|
|Season||Champions||Runner-up||Play-off winner||score||Play-off runner-up|
|2004–05||Sunderland 94||Wigan Athletic 87||West Ham United 73 (6th)||1–0||Preston North End 75 (5th)|
|2005–06||Reading 106||Sheffield United 90||Watford 81 (3rd)||3–0||Leeds United 78 (5th)|
|2006–07||Sunderland 88||Birmingham City 86||Derby County 84 (3rd)||1–0||West Bromwich Albion 76 (4th)|
|2007–08||West Bromwich Albion 81||Stoke City 79||Hull City 75 (3rd)||1–0||Bristol City 74 (4th)|
|2008–09||Wolverhampton Wanderers 90||Birmingham City 83||Burnley 76 (5th)||1–0||Sheffield United 80 (3rd)|
|2009–10||Newcastle United 102||West Bromwich Albion 91||Blackpool 70 (6th)||3–2||Cardiff City 76 (4th)|
|2010–11||Queens Park Rangers 88||Norwich City1 84||Swansea City 80 (3rd)||4–2||Reading 77 (5th)|
|2011–12||Reading 89||Southampton 88||West Ham United 86 (3rd)||2–1||Blackpool 75 (5th)|
|2012–13||Cardiff City 87||Hull City 79||Crystal Palace 72 (5th)||1–0 (a.e.t)||Watford 77 (3rd)|
|2013–14||Leicester City 102||Burnley2 93||Queens Park Rangers 80 (4th)||1–0||Derby County 85 (3rd)|
|2014–15||Bournemouth 90||Watford 89||Norwich City 86 (3rd)||2–0||Middlesbrough 85 (4th)|
|2015–16||Burnley 93||Middlesbrough 89||Hull City 83 (4th)||1–0||Sheffield Wednesday 74 (6th)|
|2016–17||Newcastle United 94||Brighton & Hove Albion 93||Huddersfield 81 (5th)||0–0 (4–3 pen)||Reading 85 (3rd)|
1 When Norwich City gained promotion to the Premier League they were the first team to be relegated to, relegated from, promoted to and promoted from the Championship.
2 When Burnley were promoted in second place with 93 points, they had set a record for the most points for a second-placed team. This record was subsequently matched by Brighton & Hove Albion in the 2016–17 season when they finished second with 93 points.
For past winners at this level before 2004, see List of winners of English Football League Championship and predecessors
|2004–05||Gillingham (50), Nottingham Forest (44), Rotherham United (29)|
|2005–06||Crewe Alexandra (42), Millwall (40), Brighton & Hove Albion (38)|
|2006–07||Southend United (42), Luton Town (40), Leeds United (36)|
|2007–08||Leicester City (52), Scunthorpe United (46), Colchester United (38)|
|2008–09||Norwich City (46), Southampton (45), Charlton Athletic (39)|
|2009–10||Sheffield Wednesday (47), Plymouth Argyle (41), Peterborough United (34)|
|2010–11||Preston North End (42), Sheffield United (42), Scunthorpe United (42)|
|2011–12||Portsmouth (40), Coventry City (40), Doncaster Rovers (36)|
|2012–13||Peterborough United (54), Wolverhampton Wanderers (51), Bristol City (41)|
|2013–14||Doncaster Rovers (44), Barnsley (39), Yeovil Town (37)|
|2014–15||Millwall (41), Wigan Athletic (39), Blackpool (26)|
|2015–16||Charlton Athletic (40), Milton Keynes Dons (39), Bolton Wanderers (30)|
|2016–17||Blackburn Rovers (51), Wigan Athletic (42), Rotherham United (23)|
|2004–05||Crystal Palace (33), Norwich City (33), Southampton (32)|
|2005–06||Birmingham City (34), West Bromwich Albion (30), Sunderland (15)|
|2006–07||Sheffield United (38), Charlton Athletic (34), Watford (29)|
|2007–08||Reading (36), Birmingham City (35), Derby County (11)|
|2008–09||Newcastle United (34), Middlesbrough (32), West Bromwich Albion (32)|
|2009–10||Burnley (30), Hull City (30), Portsmouth (19)|
|2010–11||Birmingham City (39), Blackpool (39), West Ham United (33)|
|2011–12||Bolton Wanderers (36), Blackburn Rovers (31), Wolverhampton Wanderers (25)|
|2012–13||Wigan Athletic (36), Reading (28), Queens Park Rangers (25)|
|2013–14||Norwich City (33), Fulham (32), Cardiff City (30)|
|2014–15||Hull City (35), Burnley (33), Queens Park Rangers (30)|
|2015–16||Newcastle United (37), Norwich City (34), Aston Villa (17)|
|2016–17||Hull City (34), Middlesbrough (28), Sunderland (24)|
|2004–05||Luton Town (98), Hull City (86), Sheffield Wednesday (Play-off winners) (72)|
|2005–06||Southend United (82), Colchester United (79), Barnsley (Play-off winners) (72)|
|2006–07||Scunthorpe United (91), Bristol City (85), Blackpool (Play-off winners) (83)|
|2007–08||Swansea City (91), Nottingham Forest (82), Doncaster Rovers (Play-off winners) (80)|
|2008–09||Leicester City (96), Peterborough United (89), Scunthorpe United (Play-off winners) (76)|
|2009–10||Norwich City (95), Leeds United (86), Millwall (Play-off winners) (85)|
|2010–11||Brighton & Hove Albion (95), Southampton (92), Peterborough United (Play-off winners) (79)|
|2011–12||Charlton Athletic (101), Sheffield Wednesday (93), Huddersfield Town (Play-off winners) (81)|
|2012–13||Doncaster Rovers (84), Bournemouth (83), Yeovil Town (Play-off winners) (77)|
|2013–14||Wolverhampton Wanderers (103), Brentford (94), Rotherham United (Play-off winners) (86)|
|2014–15||Bristol City (99), Milton Keynes Dons (91), Preston North End (Play-off winners) (89)|
|2015–16||Wigan Athletic (87), Burton Albion (85), Barnsley (Play-off winners) (74)|
|2016–17||Sheffield United (100), Bolton Wanderers (87), Millwall (Play-off winners) (73)|
|2004–05||Nathan Ellington||Wigan Athletic||24|
|2006–07||Jamie Cureton||Colchester United||23|
|2007–08||Sylvan Ebanks-Blake||Plymouth Argyle
|2008–09||Sylvan Ebanks-Blake||Wolverhampton Wanderers||25|
|2009–10||Peter Whittingham||Cardiff City||20|
|Nicky Maynard||Bristol City|
|2012–13||Glenn Murray||Crystal Palace||30|
|2013–14||Ross McCormack||Leeds United||28|
|2014–15||Daryl Murphy||Ipswich Town||27|
|2016–17||Chris Wood||Leeds United||27|
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