The Offside Yap #9 – Does the Football League play-off system need a revamp?

In the latest instalment of The Offside Yap, we have called upon some of our contributors to give their thoughts on an issue in the game which has got us thinking… This week we asked the team: The play-offs are on the horizon. Is it fair that a side could finish sixth* after 46 games and still gain promotion?


Blackpool secured promotion to the Premier League in 2009-10 via the play-offs, having finished sixth in the league table

@jessfmartin – Promotion should be based on a whole season’s performance not just on a couple of fixtures in a short period of time. If the fifth and sixth-placed sides start being promoted undeservingly they’ll fail to rival teams in the higher league. There is no pleasure for anyone in seeing a side go up to a higher division before dropping straight back down again in the next season…

…like Blackpool who were relegated from the Premier League in 2010-11.

@sport_journo_ – I think it’s fair. Fans and clubs are both in favour of the play-offs because they feel like it gives them a greater chance of gaining promotion. It certainly adds a lot of excitement to the end of the season. This year Leicester and Burnley have already secured Premier League promotion and now everyone is focusing on the play-offs. Without them, the tail end of the season would effectively be a dead rubber. Not to mention the excitement of the play-offs themselves, which effectively is the most lucrative fixture in the world if they win the final. However, this emphasis on playing in the Premier League is contributing to the downfall of domestic cups in England. We now see managers resting players in crucial cup ties because financially they ‘need’ to stay in the top flight of English football first and foremost.

Last year, Crystal Palace and Watford estimated that the true worth of a place in the Premier League could top £145m.

@Rebecca_L_Coles – The SkyBet Championship play-offs – unfair and unpredictable – British football at its best. If you finish third to sixth in the table then you deserve the right to enter the play-offs. It gives other teams who are more or less level on points another chance to fight their way to the Premier League. It brings an exciting dimension to the game

@sebdawkins – Absolutely, and in the Championship, definitely. Not a lot separates the top ten clubs, and the whole league for that matter, so sides in the top six all deserve a chance of promotion. More importantly, it keeps competition alive, right until the very end of the season.

Sarah’s point would seem to be backed by the point that – at the time of publishing – nine teams still stand a mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs with just two games left in the season..

With just two games to go, eleventh-placed AFC Bournemouth still hold faint hopes of reaching the play-offs

With just two games to go, eleventh-placed AFC Bournemouth still hold faint hopes of reaching the play-offs

Finally, here are some of the Offside Rule Podcast’s ideas for how the play-off system could be revamped!

@ShafLdn – 100% unfair how promotion currently is – I think the top three should have a straight pass to the Premier League. Barring that, third place should have more of an advantage in the play-offs. Give them an automatic 1-0 lead to take into the play-offs or hand them the lucky changing room at Wembley. I doubt the FA will change the rules anytime soon, considering they want to recoup all economic potential from Wembley and TV audiences

@footballwritr – On one hand, it’s not entirely fair – on the other hand it’s amazing drama. I think we should look at a Bundesliga-style end to the season with the third-bottom Premier League team having a two-legged play-off against the third-placed Championship team. Always have the second leg at the Championship side, as a reward for putting together a good season. Best of both worlds!

Are you happy with the current promotion/relegation system in place in English football? Could the Premier League learn something from the Bundesliga? 

Episode 35 of The Offside Rule Podcast (We Get It!) will be available on our Audioboo page on Thursday 24th April. This week our presenters celebrate the achievements of Brentford and Burnley who didn’t need the help of the play-offs to achieve promotion this season!

*in League Two, at the end of each season the top three teams, together with the winner of the play-offs between the teams which finished in 4th–7th position, are promoted to League One

Find the rest of our Offside Yap debates here!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: