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Snakes and Ladders
Written by SheffieldTractor on Tuesday, 5th Sep 2017 12:14

Can statistics unveil a formula that will point towards a greater chance of a club like our being promoted from the Championship?

I’m going to use a series of three articles with each looking at a different element of what such an algorithm might include. In this article I’ll look at what many of us would assume to be the most significant factor in pulling together a promotion winning team – money. More specifically I will look at the impact of parachute payments.

In the second and third articles I’ll discuss what statistics can tell us up showing faith in a manager and the final contribution to this series will consider some statistics on team selection.

Marcus Evans is involved in what we might think of as a multi-million pound game of Snakes and Ladders where 24 competitors play simultaneously but on different boards.

All boards contain some ladders – the chance of discovering the next Gareth Bale – and some snakes – a season-long injury to a star player, but on some clubs’ boards there are more and longer ladders; parachute payments, huge investments from super-rich owners or large matchday revenue.

Meanwhile, other clubs are playing on boards over-spilling with snakes; the need to sell players, a small fanbase and lack of attractiveness for new players or investors.

In an age where our beautiful game has become so focused on money we might be forgiven wondering if the outcome of this loaded Snakes and Ladders game is a forgone conclusion.

Take parachute payments. Nine of this season’s Championship clubs will be getting some form of payment this year. Hull, for example, will receive £47m this season, £38m next and they would have been due a third instalment of £17m had they stayed in the Premier League a year longer than they did.

Imagine what a single investment of £40m could do for the Town squad! Money talks and those clubs with the greatest financial clout and advantage are destined to take the three promotion spots.

Or are they? While recognising that finances of the Championship clubs bear more resemblance to the north face of the Eiger than a level playing field, I’m going to argue that money isn’t necessarily such a determinant of promotion as we might expect. As an Ipswich fan this excites me as I dare to believe there is hope that a club with our balance sheet can still be promoted.

In the 10 seasons since 2007/08 thirty clubs have of course been promoted to the Premier League. Before reading on have a guess at how many of those 30 were receiving parachute payments. Remember that until last season clubs received diminishing payments for up to four seasons following relegation (now reduced to three and made dependent on the number of seasons spent in the top tier).

My guess before I researched this blog was that probably about 24 of the 30 clubs would have had the advantage of a parachute payment in the season they got promoted. A few exceptions came to mind, like Blackpool and Bournemouth but I supposed the vast majority had got a financial leg up. So, what would your guess be?

In fact only 13 of the 30 promoted teams did so with parachute payments. Last season Brighton and Huddersfield didn't have parachute payments, before them Boro and prior to that in 2014/15, when Town had looked likely to be another, they were usurped by Bournemouth and Watford.

This doesn’t mean that parachute payments lessen a team’s chances of promotion. Over the last 10 years approximately 34% of Championship clubs have competed with parachute payments but have filled almost 43% of promotion places.

The other 66% of competing clubs, including Town, won 57% of the places. If your club had a Championship season with some sort of parachute payment in the last 10 years, there is a 16% chance they got promoted that year. Without the chance drops to 11%. Parachute payments are a big plus in the promotion formula – but not as decisive as you might have imagined.

Of course the promoted clubs might have had other financial advantages. Brighton for instance have had huge investments in their club in the last two seasons although interestingly more in the infrastructure than the wage bill or playing staff. Middlesbrough, while only 11th in the 2015/16 Championship in terms of revenue, gambled and spent big on wages (they ranked fourth for player wages spending).

There are an infinite number of ways of presenting statistics but clearly we can generalise and say the bigger financial clubs tend to end up nearer the top of the Championship and the smaller ones at the bottom.

Yet there are enough exceptions to this rule of thumb to make me believe promotion is possible after 15 years and from a position of financial disadvantage.

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bluehook added 15:25 - Sep 12
There is hope that a club with our balance sheet could possibly get promoted, but not with a stubborn, pig headed, inflexible manager such as ours.

LimitlessBlue added 11:55 - Sep 18
Man that's a lot of words! and you are gonna write 2 more blogs?
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