It has always been a burning question, when fans of teams who don’t get promoted, call for the play-offs to be scrapped or adjusted to help them achieve promotion, even more so this season when Brighton missed out on promotion automatically by goal difference, before being dumped out by Sheffield Wednesday at the semi-final stage. But the question is, are the play-offs a fair way of deciding who the promoted 3rd team (4th in League 2) will be. That is the question I have set myself to find out.
For the first time in the play-off’s 24 season history, not 1 of the highest finishing play-offs teams from the Championship, League One and League Two will be in the final, with Brighton, Walsall and Acrrington Stanley all falling short after missing out on promotion, ironically all on the final day of the season. All 3 teams can count themselves extremely unlucky, they all missed out by the narrowest of margins; Brighton missed out on goal difference to Middlesbrough by 2 goals, Walsall were a point worse off from promoted team Burton Albion, while Stanley suffered the same fate as Brighton, missing out by 5 goals to Bristol Rovers. But does finishing 3rd (4th L2) actually give you the upper hand?
In the 24 seasons on the play-offs, out of the 72 teams which have finished in the top play-offs spot, 46 of them have gone on to the final while 26 have not, giving the success rate of 64%. Break that down into the separate divisions, Championship teams make the final 62% of the time, as too do League One sides, whereas League Two make it 66% of the time. The thing that makes it even worse for Brighton and Walsall, is that they are only the 2nd team in the last 10 seasons not to make it; Nottingham Forest failed to make it into the Championship play-off final of 2009/10, and so did MK Dons in the 2008/09 season in League One. The has been a number of suggestions, too many to sit and discuss each one, but the one’s that I have listed are the more credible ones I’ve heard.
Award goals based on how many points ahead you are;
It’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve heard of, but there maybe some sense to it. If, like Brighton this season for instance, you are ahead of your opponents by 15 points or 5 wins, you feel like there should be a slight advantage, rather than having it at a ‘level playing field’. Even if they were to consider such a option, I would even begin to know how they would system it, but awarding goals based on how many points in front you are is complete bonkers; it will take intensity and the atmosphere away from the play-offs if such a thing was brought in.
Decision; A complete no from me.
One leg semi-finals;
Something already previously discussed, was to play a one-legged semi final with the winner going straight to the final. Again it boils down to ‘is there actually an advantage?’, as the team you are facing might have beaten you twice in the season. Yes you have home advantage but again, it’s a 1 off match where form and previous results go out the window. It also doesn’t give the chance for teams to overturn a deficit like Brighton, Walsall and Stanley all endured in their 1st legs. As much as it isn’t as footballing issue, you’ll also lose revenue from ticket sales. It’s something to consider, but it would be a 3rd or 4th sort of option.
Decision; Something to consider, but there are better options out there.
3rd goes straight to the final;
A idea which has been floating around quite a lot recently, especially from football pundits and ex players. They way it would work will be 6th plays 5th away, with the winner playing away to 4th, then the winner of that game playing 3rd at Wembley in the final. This idea is probably the fairest way, as it rewards the team that finished 3rd with a straight route to the final, while 5th and 6th must fight their way for a place in the final. While it’s a slight disadvantage to the team’s finishing 5th and 6th, as they have to play extra games, it gives teams more incentive to try and finish higher when they know a play-off place is guaranteed.
Decision; An idea which I think most FL clubs would back. I like the idea and would be my first option if there was a reshuffle in the play-off picture.
Most major European league already have this implemented, so why don’t England? Pretty simple idea, their bottom 2 clubs go down automatically to make way for the 2 promoted teams, while the 3rd bottom team has a chance to fight for their survival. The 3rd bottom team would play 5th in the league down, while 3rd would play 4th over 2 legs. The winners of the ties meet in the final, and if the 3rd bottom team loses at any stage of the play-offs, then they will be relegated and replaced by the victor of the final. The likes of Germany, Holland, Scotland, Norway and Russia already do this, and have had great success.
Decision; It gives the relegation-threatened team hope of staying up, and makes them fight for their survival, which can only be a good thing from a neutral’s point of view. Defiantly worth considering.
Scrap the Play-Offs all together, and the best 3 teams go up;
Probably the idea which most will want, but it gives teams that are mid table halfway through the season little chance to play for anything; you would need to be in and around the top 7 to have a serious shout for promotion. You will also lose the excitement of the play-offs, which have brought us tears, joy and memories as well as bringing extra revenue to clubs and trips to Wembley, so it would be hard to get rid of them.
Decision; I think the play-offs are here to stay, but they definatly need to think about a reshuffle of some sort.
Leave a comment below as to where you stand on this subject, and which idea seems to be the most fitting.