Is the SkyBet Championship the most competitive league in Europe?


One thing that many people say the most is that the Premier League is the best/most competitive in Europe, even the World. That is rubbish in my opinion – pretty much every year, come the final 5-10 games it’s the same teams who have spent obscene amounts of money that are vying for the title. Very rarely, if ever – does another team come into it. The same goes for many leagues all over Europe – the casom between the top 6-8 teams in unreal – for example this season between 1st and 8th in the Bundesliga, La Liga and Eredivisie there is 29-32 points difference.

Just looking at this season alone is silly – so I have looked back over the last 4 seasons plus this current campaign to see which of the top European league (+ the top 5 leagues in England) is the most competitive among the top 8 sides of each league, each season – coming up with an average point difference between 1st and 8th:

points difference picThis is a quick chart I whipped up using Excel and the result of research performed this morning – which did not take long! What it shows is that in the bigger leagues where money in unfairly split (like in La Liga) you find a huge gap between the top 8 sides. In the Championship and League 2, it’s much closer, which makes for a more exciting league throughout the season. Outside of the top 6 teams in the Premier League, the season for the next 5/6 teams is over – no threat of relegation, no chance of getting into Europe.

Obviously the closer the points difference is, the more even the league is. In leagues like Portugal, Holland and France you have 2/3 competing for the title, and the rest are there to make up the numbers. Porto and Benfica are rarely challenged for the title, apart from Lisbon who have comeback into it recently. In Holland, it’s usually Ajax and PSV, with Twente and Feyenoord a little further back.

Of the 14 leagues analysed – the Premier League is 11th, Bundesliga 12th and La Liga 14th – so 3 of the highest profile leagues – considered the best – are very uncompetitive amongst the top 8 teams. The most competitive league it seems is League 2, in England closely followed by the Championship. As for betting this really shows, because those two are among the most difficult to predict! You rarely see a game with odds of less than Evens for even a home side! Northampton, who are very good at home, were 6/5 to beat Luton, who had lost 5 games in a row, and worse away from home. It also shows how, if you get it right – there is value.

Now I could have analysed the gap between top and bottom, but you would probably end up with similar percentages/positions, or even the top 10. With between 7 and 12 games to go in most leagues, it should be a similar picture come the end of the season. For example in Spain the usual difference is 40-50 points, while in the Championship it averages around 20 – the two times recently it was over that was when Newcastle and Leicester ran away with the league, with 100+ points. This season, as it stands today – the difference is 8 points!

Another thing to consider in the top leagues is you only ever have three teams coming up – who are often equal to if not a little worse than the ones they replace, so they often have little to no impact on this sort of thing. In leagues further down, you have teams dropping down and coming up – so around a 6-8 team change each season, and depending on financial situations (Portsmouth, Bolton, Bristol Rovers etc) you have a variety of things that could happen. As mentioned when teams like Newcastle have a squad more than good enough, they walk it. Only a few teams have ever done that, like they did. Look at this season – Norwich are in the top 4, but Cardiff and Wigan are struggling in mid-lower region of the table.

This supports why I seem to stay away from the English leagues and prefer the foreign leagues where games are more predictable. In most leagues the split in TV revenue is not as fair as it is in England. Spanish clubs negotiate their own deals – which is something that needs changing if you listen to most people, as well as clubs in Spain.

To further look into it – I have done the same thing with the Bottom 8 sides in each league – here are the results:

points differnece bottom 8

League 2 has the lowest figure once again! In most leagues there are less than 20 points between the bottom 8 sides – it seems the top of the league is sorted well before the bottom of the league. Obviously it confirms what we already know – leagues such as the Conference and Serie A are sorted well before the end of the season. In the Conference teams like Hyde and AFC Telford have been relegated months before the end of the season!

The Premier League is one of the least competitive at the top, but the 2nd most competitive at the bottom. Teams all seem to be of similar quality, which makes for a good spectacle come late-April and May, with the likes of WBA getting out of the bottom 3 during the final round of fixtures.

What’s clear with both of these graph’s is that a lot of leagues are very competitive at the bottom of the league, but very uncompetitive in the top 8 clubs. It shows in the money the bigger clubs get via the Champions League – each season the gap between those who are in the CL and those who fail to get there each season, which again is common knowledge really.

So – in conclusion – I started out thinking the Championship was the most competitive, but it turns out its League 2. Outside of England, the two that stand out are the top divisions in Belgium and Russia, while two of the least competitive leagues by our research are Germany and Spain, as well as Italy. This goes some way to explaining why odds in the Championship and League 2 are so good, and the likes of Spain and Germany can be very poor at times.