For most of the rest, automatic promotion is effectively out of reach.
“The Championship is a great league,” Parry said. “It’s incredibly competitive and unpredictable, as long as you accept that two of the relegated teams will go straight back up.”
Though he sees the division’s playoffs — which widen the pool of promotion hopefuls before crushing the dreams of all but one of them — as a “saving grace, giving everyone else a target,” he believes that the entrenched inequality serves to entice owners into unsustainable spending to try and level the playing field. “There is a feeling that you have to over-invest,” he said.
But while the ongoing health of the Championship is Parry’s central concern, he argues that predictability should be a source of anxiety to the Premier League, too. “It is a problem for them, too,” he said. “Its selling point is how competitive it is: for the title, for the Champions League places, at the bottom. If you know which teams are going down, then some of the drama is lost.”
As ever, at the dawn of a new season, there is a conviction at Fulham that the cycle can be broken. Marco Silva, the club’s fourth manager in four years, has been studying the root causes of the relegations suffered by his predecessors in 2019 and 2021. He is confident that he can avoid the same trapdoors. “We have to write a different story,” he told The Athletic.
Like all of those teams caught on English soccer’s great cliff edge, though, the balance is delicate. Fulham, like Watford and Norwich before it, has to spend enough money to stand a chance of remaining in the Premier League, but not spend so much that — in the event of failure — the club’s future is endangered. (The lavish spree undertaken after promotion in 2020 backfired so spectacularly that the idea of recruiting too heavily in preparation for the Premier League has entered the lexicon as “doing a Fulham.”)