It's here! The new EFL season has arrived, so prepare yourselves for 10 months of football that promises to be exhilarating from the word go.Fulham and Newcastle United get things under way in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Friday night before Saturday's 3pm kick-offs in all three divisions. Sunday sees more live action, with two more matches from the Sky Bet Championship being screened on Sky Sports.
TV Games: Click here to see which matches have been selected for Sky Sports coverage so far
One of the opening weekend's stand-out fixtures sees Burton Albion, newly-promoted to the second tier, visit the City Ground to play Nottingham Forest – and that's where EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey will be.
“If any one game highlights what’s brilliant about the Championship, it’s this,” Harvey told EFL.com.
“We’ve got a club who are making their debut at that level, against a former European champion. There’s enough said in that fixture.
“The season seems to have taken a long time to come around since the heights of the Play-Offs at the end of May and I think football has been waiting for the return of the domestic season, and here we are!”
On top of debutants Burton Albion, the Sky Bet Championship also features Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Norwich City, who were relegated from the top flight.
A number of teams who performed well last season have also invested, with Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton & Hove Albion bolstering their ranks, while Derby County have appointed Nigel Pearson, a manager well-versed with success in the EFL having guided Leicester City to the Championship title in 2013/14.
That makes for an exciting season, and Harvey believes the EFL will deliver again when it comes to thrills and spills.
“There are a lot of strong sides in the Championship and a number of clubs are investing to try and win promotion to the top flight. With some clubs possessing the stature they do, particularly in recent history, it probably does mean on paper it is one of the strongest leagues it has ever been.
“But, it’s played on the pitch, there will be a number of twists and turns and I’m sure some of the clubs that aren’t fancied at this moment in time will come through and give a great account of themselves too.
“With the amount of big clubs in the division, you could say it will be predictable, but we’ve seen it week-in week-out that on any given Saturday anybody can beat anybody, and that’s the beauty of the Sky Bet Championship.
“Then you look at League One and League Two – the number of big clubs in those divisions in comparison to what there has been historically is high and I believe that is changing the face of football at that level. It will be a really interesting competition across all three divisions.
“That’s why we’re bigger than anyone else in the world and that’s why even though we don’t have the top tier league in the country, more people know about us than they do about the majority of top-tier leagues in other countries.”
Season 2016/17 will be the first under the new-look EFL, following the rebranding of The Football League during the close-season.
This term's EFL Trophy also has a new feel to it with the introduction of 16 Category 1 Academy teams, and the EFL secured a record value partnership with Checkatrade that sees the market-leading trade vetting and monitoring website become the competition's Official Title Sponsor.
Read more: EFL Trophy: Checkatrade check in as Trophy title sponsor
“The rebrand is all about making sure we have an identity both domestically but also, and perhaps more importantly, on an international basis,” Harvey explained.
“Previously The Football League has just been merged into football that was played in England, and we had to make sure we created our own identity.
“Football is at a very interesting crossroads. We’ve got a great game at domestic level in this country and any changes that we’re looking to make will be to build on that rather than to repair something that isn’t damaged.
“We’d all like to do whatever we can to increase the national teams’ opportunities when they’re playing – that’s a big consideration for all of us. We all appreciate that the better the international team performs, the more people become interested in football and higher crowds go through the turnstiles.
“We’ve got some very interesting discussions and debates to be had in front of a backdrop that’s not a game in crisis but a game that’s in very good health, that we can look to improve.”
Social media - #EFLKickOff
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