Despite their marketing, last season Sky demonstrated that it was mainly concerned with a narrow proportion of teams who were plying their trade in the Championship.

Sitting here at my keyboard, it sounds like there's the brooding tune and tone being played by a colliery brass band throughout this post. Everything I anticipate writing, especially over the next few paragraphs, seems to point to my perceived inequality of a system which is broken, but accepted by many.

The situation

Any TV money is only a small chunk of the revenue that any Championship club will receive this season. The EFL do not hand out prize money based on positions. This means that any team competing will receive a flat amount of money,  whether you are on course for automatic promotion or certain relegation.

Every club receives the same ‘basic award’ of £2.084 million. This reflects the EFL giving an equal share of the TV deal negotiated with Sky to broadcast Championship games to every club in the division, regardless of where they finish. The EFL also give every club in the Championship a £4.3million ‘solidarity payment’. The money is donated by the Premier League to ensure the gap from the second tier to top flight does not expand any further.

My issue
Despite their marketing, last season Sky demonstrated that it was mainly concerned with a narrow proportion of teams who were plying their trade in the Championship. Frequent appearances were made by Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Brighton & Hove Albion, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday on their "showpiece" slots.

How can that be representative of a diverse and unpredictable division? Consider this; Championship clubs are awarded £100,000 for every home game broadcast on Sky, while they are given a £10,000 bonus for away clashes on the box. It means that clubs like Aston Villa received the following last season;
  • Basic award: £2.084m (received by all Championship clubs)
  • Solidarity payment: £4.3m (received by all Championship clubs)
  • Money for being on TV: £520,000
  • Total: £6.9m
Yet parachute payments still equalled an estimated £40million for Villa, in the first year after their relegation from the Premier League

Supporters are constantly being asked to spend more of their time travelling on the road, to meet the broadcasters' needs at ridiculous times. But my overriding issue is simply this. If Sky need the weight of the 'bigger clubs' to support the marketing of football on their network, let's make it a bit more even. Why should they have their games consistently televised and at their home ground and gain the greatest share of the revenue available?

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The evidence

Of the games already scheduled, from 4 August to 1 October 2017; Sheffield Wednesday will have already accumulated three home games and £300k into the bargain, before the rest of the league has even reached Halloween. Villa, appear twice at home and twice away, picking up a smart £240k.
By comparison, Barnsley will appear at home once,  worth £100k.

The impact

Whilst my imaginary colliery band continue to play, I realise I can be myopic at times. But when you consider the cost of ground improvements, scoreboards, academies and general expenses that all clubs have to find cash for every season - the sums here are 'small change' to the marketing machines of the 'City' clubs. A revolution in the share of TV revenue and a new strategy would transform the football experience for the less well off. Why can't Sky see this?

The wealthy clubs will always carry their weight in negotiations. It's about who shouts the loudest and the threat they carry if they are not being heard. Maybe a responsible broadcaster will eventually balance the needs of their advertising partners, along with the standards of fair competition and opportunity for all.

It might be a crazy concept folks, but why can't they simply televise and promote a sporting competition involving all, without favour? Even if they hated that concept, it could be far more gladatorial, by pitting the richest team (away) versus the media pundit's underdog at home. Surely this would be far more mouthwatering and truly representative of what the Championship is all about?

The irony

The EFL have rejected a one-year extension on their agreement with Sky and now their rivals, BT Sport, are prepared to outbid them.  BT Sport will now look to add the Sky Bet Football League, Capital One Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to their portfolio of sport. With any new deal likely to start at the beginning of the 2019/20 season.

Despite all of these commercial moves, does anybody feel this will make any difference? We would love to see your comments (below) and invite you to join the Super Reds debate, here On The Ponty End!
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Ian Wilkinson

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