The money flowing through an average Premier League club was more than six times that of an average Championship club in 2017

The gap in average turnover between Premier League and English Football League clubs widened to £133m in the year after a record TV rights deal.

The divide grew in each season from 2014-16 and by a third more in 2017.

Championship clubs are now tending towards a “two-year gamble” to attempt promotion and avoid breaching spending rules, a football finance expert says.

“Competitive balance” between the Premier League and Championship was “clearly evident”, the EFL said.

All three of the clubs promoted from the Championship at the end of the 2016-17 season – Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield – survived in the Premier League last term, while of the teams that came down, Middlesbrough made the play-offs, Hull City finished 18th and Sunderland were relegated.

In 2015, the Premier League sold domestic television rights to its games for a record £5.136bn, 71% above the previous deal.

The full impact of that negotiation was first expected to be seen in 2016-17 accounts, which BBC analysis can now reveal.

BBC England’s data unit and BBC Sport analysed most recent accounts – covering the four years until 2017.

Our analysis found:

  • The median average turnover among Premier League clubs was £133m higher than those in the Championship, according to clubs’ most recent accounts
  • In 2017, 14 out of 23 Championship clubs spent more than 100% of their turnover on staff costs, including their players, coaches, management and administrators
  • Barnsley did not disclose that detail in their 2017 accounts
  • Between 2014 and 2017, Championship clubs’ median average turnover increased by £4.8m to £23.7m, League One’s rose by £1.9m to £6.3m and League Two’s dropped by £300,000 to £3.2m
  • The Premier League’s highest-paid director, believed to be executive chairman Richard Scudamore, received £2.5m in “broadcasting bonuses” in the year ending 2016, when the record TV rights deal was agreed – more than the margin by which League One and League Two clubs increased their turnovers from 2014-17

The total value of the rights for 2019-2022 was taken to £4.55bn without Amazon having announced how much it had paid to show 20 matches in each of those three seasons.

Championship clubs’ income from broadcasters now “pales into insignificance” compared to that in the Premier League, according to football finance expert Kieran Maguire, from the University of Liverpool.

Trevor Birch, the former chief executive of Chelsea, Everton, Leeds, Sheffield and Derby County, and one-time administrator for Portsmouth, said nobody could have foreseen the “exponential growth” of the Premier League at its outset.

The EFL said it was “widely acknowledged that there is a significant disparity in broadcast income between clubs in the top two divisions in England” but stressed revenues for its clubs “continued to increase through club-generated income, improved central contracts and as a result of EFL-negotiated solidarity payments”.

The sale of its own broadcasting rights would “see a 36% increase in revenues from the start of the 2019-20 season”, the EFL said, giving clubs “increased long-term certainty”.

“The quality of the Championship now was such it attracted larger television audiences and was probably the second-best league in Europe,” Birch said, but it “relied on benefactors and investors” to keep pace with the finances of the Premier League.

In 2014, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey had said the winner of the second-tier play-off final would receive the same from one season in the Premier League as “from playing in the Championship for the next 30 years”.