June 30, 2023
The EFL – English Football League
The football pyramid is a hero’s journey – one of epic proportions. It’s not hard to romanticise the journey a single player can take from the grassroots to the hall of fame – from a misshapen ball kicked back and forth in the back alley to the emerald pitches. Every story is a fantasy for all but the main character.
The same goes for the teams themselves, the ultimate heroes. Their journeys may not be as linear as the journeys their players make through the ranks, but the stories are sure to become legend for supporters as the decades pass.
The English Football League Championship, known simply as The Championship, is one of the defining chapters in a hero’s journey. For players and teams alike, the EFL Championship marks a tipping point – one that could send them off into the stratosphere of the English Premier League (EPL).
It is, of course, tantalisingly close to the pinnacle, and watching your team make that ultimate journey from EFL Championship to Premier League is a rite of passage for any football fan.
Here’s everything you need to know about the EFL Championship.
The EFL 101:
- English football has four professional tiers, of which the Premier League sits at the top. The three lower league tiers below constitute the English Football League (EFL) – the Championship, League One, and League Two. Each of the EFL leagues has 24 teams, but each has a different number of teams that can be promoted and relegated from it.
- The EFL Championship has a long and storied history. Originally founded in 1892 as the Football Second League Division, the EFL Championship as we know it today began in 2016.
- The EFL is what’s known as cross-border, which means that it includes teams from Wales.
- Only the top two teams in the EFL Championship are guaranteed promotion to the Premier League. A third team is decided during a playoff between those in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place after all regular season games are completed.
- Promotion is settled by whoever finishes in the top one or two positions in the league. Instead, the English football pyramid utilises the playoff system as well. The four teams who qualify behind the automatic promotion positions compete in a two-legged knockout tournament, which culminates in a final to determine who is promoted.
The EFL Timeline
- In 1888, in response to a slapdash, stop-start approach to organising FA Cup matches and inter-county games, 12 teams founded the Football League.
- In 1892, a merger with the Football Alliance meant that the Football League split into two divisions, with 16 clubs playing in the first division and 12 clubs playing in the second division.
- In the 1892/93 season, Sheffield were promoted to the First Division. In subsequent seasons, they were followed by Liverpool and Bury. By 1898, a system of automatic promotion replaced the test matches between the second division’s best teams and the first division’s worst.
- WWI saw the league disbanded for several years. It returned for the 1919/20 season when a third division was introduced. Following this WWII then saw the league disbanded for seven years in total.
- In 1974, the first Football League game was played on a Sunday – the start of a tradition that, almost fifty years on, countless football fans could not do without. What else is Sunday for?
- In 1992, the Premier League was formed when the Football League’s first division broke away and created a single-division league. The Football League continued to operate with three leagues, instead of four, as did promotion to the Premier League for the two best teams.
- In 2004, fans first experienced the English Football League Championship. Sunderland came out on top, followed by Wigan Athletic FC, and accordingly, both teams were promoted to the Premier League, along with West Ham United after succeeding in playoffs.
- In 2016, the Football League became the English Football League – or the EFL for short and to this day consist of the three leagues: The Championship, League 1 and League 2.
A Fresh Season: The EFL Championship 23/24
Always a season away from the promised land, the EFL Championship lives on the cusp. A good season – even a good 10-15 games – could put teams only a matter of wins away from planning at least 38 games in the Premier League – and reaping that cash cow.
Burnley, Luton, and Sheffield United left for greener pastures last season. Leeds, Leicester, and Southampton took their place. Those are three intimidating teams to play. Coventry, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, and Watford will know that those three teams are in a good position to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. However, Coventry and their peers will feel that they are more than good enough to challenge them, especially as they’re on the ascent while the relegated teams are on a descent.
Ipswich Town will be an exciting team to watch. Under Kieran McKenna, they stormed League One playing exciting football. Whether they have quickly scaled up their squad and effectiveness enough to turn that dominance into at least Play-Off contention is something to look forward to.
West Brom’s operations are routinely under scrutiny. Ownership queries and managerial changes – as well as a squad that needs a little love – puts their long-term and short-term vision into question. However, they are a strong bunch. They will be a threat for promotion this season. It’s just a case of how well they’ll execute it and whether any significant distractions will materialise.
Rotherham, Plymouth, and Huddersfield are teams earmarked to struggle. Rotherham scraped through last season, with QPR and Cardiff finishing below them in safety. However, this season may be one in which they succumb to relegation as other teams have improved. Plymouth were promoted with Ipswich but are in a very different position, and Sheffield Wednesday, also promoted, could be in jeopardy after shockingly ousting promotion-securing manager Darren Moore and replacing him with an inexperienced and yet-to-prove-himself manager in Xisco Munez.
You will be watching the EFL Championship with one eye looking up and one eye looking down. Don’t take an eye off either.
The EFL Teams 23/24
There is movement from year to year between the different divisions, and so we’ve made it a bit easier for you with this years list. The teams who have been newly promoted or relegated to the league they’re in this season are marked below.
Aston Villa Luton Town (P)
Bournemouth Manchester City
Brentford Manchester United
Brighton and Hove Albion Newcastle United
Burnley (P) Nottingham Forest
Chelsea Sheffield United (P)
Crystal Palace Tottenham Hotspur
Everton West Ham United
Fulham Wolverhampton Wanderers
Birmingham City Norwich City
Blackburn Rovers Plymouth Argyle (P)
Bristol City Preston North End
Cardiff City Queens Park Rangers
Coventry City Rotherham United
Huddersfield Town Sheffield Wednesday (P)
Hull City Southampton (R)
Ipswich Town (P) Stoke City
Leeds United (R) Sunderland
Leister City (R) Swansea City
Millwall West Bromwich Albion
Barnsley Fleetwood Town
Blackpool (R) Leyton Orient (P)
Bolton Wanderers Lincoln City
Bristol Rovers Northampton Town (P)
Burton Albion Oxford United
Cambridge United Peterborough United
Carlisle United (P) Portsmouth
Charton Athletic Reading (R)
Cheltenham Town Shrewsbury Town
Derby County Stevenage (P)
Exceter City Wycombe Wanderers
Accrington Stanley (R) Mansfield Town
AFC Wimbledon Milton Keynes Dons (R)
Barrow Morecambe (R)
Bradford City Newport County
Colchester United Notts County (P)
Crawley Town Salford City
Crewe Alexandra Stockport County
Doncaster Rovers Sutton United
Forest Green Rovers (R) Swindon Town
Gillingham Tranmere Rovers
Grimsby Town Walsall
Harrogate Town Wrexham (P)
The EFL: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz
Think you know it all? Here are some of our favourite bits of trivia from the EFL. Put your knowledge to the test or learn something new with the questions below.
Q: Who is the top goal scorer of all time in the EFL Championship?
A: At 128 goals, Billy Sharp holds the title of the EFL Championship’s top goal scorer. He has made appearances in the Championship for the likes of Reading, Doncaster Rovers, and Southampton FC. As of the EFL Championship 22/23 season, he is the captain of Sheffield United.
He is followed by David Nugent, who has scored 121 goals in the EFL Championship.
Q: Which clubs have won all four divisions?
A: Five clubs have the honour of having lifted the titles of the four professional divisions. Wolves have done it most often. Preston North End, Burnley, Portsmouth, and Sheffield United can also claim this feat.
Q: When was the EFL Championship founded?
A: If you’re thinking about the inception of the EFL Championship as we know it today, then you’re looking for the (not-so-distant) year of 2016.
Then again, the EFL Championship’s history is far longer than these past 6 years. Once the second division (as the first division went on to become the Premier League), it was initially founded in 1892, when the Football Alliance Merged with the Football League.
Q: Who holds the record for the most appearances in the EFL for an outfielder?
A: Tony Ford made 931 appearances in a career that spanned 27 years (1975 to 2002). He played for Grimsby Town, Sunderland, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Bradford City, Scunthorpe United, and Mansfield Town before finishing his career at Rochdale.
Q: How Many Games Happen During the EFL Season?
A: In any given season, teams playing in the Premier League play 38 games, which is the same for League 1, while League 2 and the EFL Championship can enjoy a grand total of 46 games each.
Q: Which club has scored the most goals in a single season?
A: Peterborough United’s 134-goal haul in the 1960/1961 Fourth Division season was the most a team has recorded in a single season.
Our Predictions: The EFL Championship 23/24 Season
Part of the excitement of the EFL championship is the difficulties pundits and fans face when putting together predictions. As all fans know, it’s a closely fought league and a run of good or bad form could totally transform what’s possible for any given team, meaning who remains in the league for the 23/24 season, as well as who leaves and enters, is anyone’s guess.
Who competes for promotion from the Championship to the Premier League will depend on who comes down. Many big, big teams are struggling in the EPL – Everton, West Ham, and Wolves, for instance – such that should they actually fall into the second tier, they would be immediate favourites to return at the first time of asking.
As for the bottom end, teams notoriously struggle for stability year-on-year. For example, while Bristol City were high-flying play-off contenders not a few years ago, they’re struggling in the 22/23 season. The key will be for existing Championship teams who survive this year to further consolidate or take risks and make a push for the playoffs and, ultimately, promotion.
The Championships is a special league, full of twists, surprises, fallen giants, and plucky underdogs. It’s no surprise that national TV audiences want to see more and global broadcasters are starting to take note.