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The English Football League championship (often referred to as the championship in short or Sky Bet Championship for sponsorship reasons) is the highest division of the English Football League (EFL) and the second highest ever in the English football league system after the Premier League. The league is contested by 24 teams. Each season, the two highest teams in the league are automatically promoted to the Premier League. The teams that finish the season from 3rd to 6th place enter a playoff tournament, with the winner also getting promotion to Premier League. The three teams with the lowest score in the league are relegated to League One football.
The league of the football league, which was introduced for the 2004-2005 season, was formerly known as the first division of the football league (1992-2004), and was previously known as division one (1892–1992). The winners of the championship receive the championship trophy of the Football League Championship, the same trophy that the old champions of the First Division were delivered before the start of the Premier League in 1992. Like other divisions of English professional football, Welsh clubs can make part of the division, making it a cross-border league.
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The championship is the richest non-flying football division in the world and the seventh richest division in Europe. With an average participation in the game for the 2016-17 season of 20.130, the championship was ranked second after the German Bundesliga 2. The most followed secondary league in the world.
Barnsley spent more seasons at the second level of English football than any other team and on 3 January 2011 he became the first club to reach 1,000 victories in the second tier of English football with a 2-1 victory at home on Coventry City. Barnsley is also the first team to play 3,000 games in the second level football league (W1028, D747, L1224). At present, Derby County and Nottingham Forest hold the longest term in the league, last out of the division in the 2007-2008 season.
The league includes 24 teams. During a season, which takes place every year from August to the following May, each team plays twice against the others in the league, once "home" and once "away", leading each team to compete 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 ranking based on the points obtained, then on the goal difference, then on the goals scored and then on their head-to-head record for that season. In the event that two or more teams finish the season equally in all these respects, the teams are separated in alphabetical order, unless a promotion, relegation or play-off is in play (see below), when the teams they are separated by a game -off game, although this unlikely situation never arose in all the years the rule existed.
At the end of the season, the first two teams and the winner of the championship play-offs are promoted to the Premier League and the three lower teams are relegated to Football League One. The Football League Championship play-offs are a knockout competition for teams that finish the season from third to sixth with the winner in the Premier League. In the play-offs, the team in third place plays against the team in sixth place and the team in fourth place plays against the team in fifth place in two-legged semifinals (at home and away). The winners of each semi-final then compete in a single match at the Wembley stadium with the prize as promotion for the Premier League and the championship play-off trophy.
In its inaugural season of 2004-2005, the Football League championship announced a total participation (including the postseason) of 9.8 million, which established itself as the fourth highest total presence for a European football division, behind the FA Premier League (12.88 million), La Liga Spanish (11.57 m) and the German Bundesliga (10.92 m), but beating the Italian Serie A (9.77 m) and the French Ligue 1 (8, 17 m).
Sunderland won the championship in the first season after re-branding, with Wigan Athletic finishing second to win the promotion for the best flight of English football for the first time in their history. They had been elected to the Football League only twenty-seven years earlier; playing in the fourth level just eleven years before their promotion. West Ham United won the first play-off final of the season in that season, after a 1-0 win over Preston North End at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. In the 2005-2006 season, Reading broke the Football League points record for one season, finishing with 106 points, surpassing Sunderland's record in 1999.
Sunderland won his second title in three seasons in the 2006-2007 season. On May 4, 2007, Leeds United became the first team to re-brand the division into administration; 10 points were deducted and were consequently demoted. On May 28, 2007, Derby County won the first championship play-off final at the new Wembley Stadium, beating West Bromwich Albion 1–0 ahead of nearly 75,000 spectators. West Brom would continue to win the championship the following season.
On September 30, 2009, Coca-Cola announced that it would conclude its sponsorship deal with The Football League (now the English Football League) at the end of the 2009-2010 season.On March 16, 2010, npower was announced as the new main sponsor of the Football League, and since the start of the 2010-11 Football League season until the end of the 2012-2013 season, the Football League Championship has been known as the Npower championship.
On July 18, 2013, British bookmaker Sky Bet announced it had signed a five-year agreement to sponsor the championship.
On May 24, 2014, the final of the championship play-offs between Derby County and Queens Park Rangers saw the highest crowd for any league fixture - 87,348 saw a stoppage time winner Bobby Zamora for QPR to win the promotion for the London club.
For the 2016-17 season, the Football League has been renamed the English Football League. That season, Rotherham United recorded the lowest score in the history of the league, winning only 23 points in its 46 games. The league had a cumulative participation of over eleven million - excluding the play-offs - with over two million people seeing Newcastle United and Aston Villa alone; both had been relegated from the Premier League the previous season. This was included in the highest masses for the second and fourth levels in England from the 1958-1959 season.
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