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All Things Footie | Tuesday, May 10 | Jordan

Ups and downs

As a bald, cockney prophet once intoned in support of Britains largest telecomms network: it’s good to talk. I love talking about football—it’s the whole reason I started this site in the first place—and I may be giving away a big secret here, but many of the opinions and ideas voiced on all things footie are not entirely of my own making. Ideas and opinions are gleaned from friends and relatives, arguing in the pub, or late at night with very large Havana Club’s in hand and the promise of a splitting headache the next morning. The following idea was first put to me in the early hours of the morning a couple of weeks ago by my brother, over a large bottle of Johhny Walker and another of Sloe Gin (not mixed I hasten to add). I made a mental note* to share it with you all—so here it is.

* Actually, not being one to trust my faculty of memory too strongly after a nip too much whiskey, I wrote it on a piece of paper. That I’ve now lost.

Promotion and relegation are always a battlefield of emotions. While the supporters of Wigan and at the opposite end of the Championship, Crewe, rejoice; those of Gillingham and Bournmouth see their hopes crumble like an over-dunked hob-nob. With Europe on offer, and serious financial benefits of finishing just one place higher in the Premiership, little further incentive is needed to motivate clubs to keep playing past March, and there’s no doubt at all that the playoffs—and the scramble for places that ensues in spring—are essential for keeping the division(s) alive in the closing few months.

Given that however, there’s a part of me that finds them intrinsically unjust. Sure, there’s romance in a team who places sixth, 20 points behind 3rd place, getting promotion by playing a three good games; but is it sensible to send up a team who has a significantly reduced hope of making it in the higher division when a ‘better’ team could go up instead? After all, isn’t that why we promote first, second etc. rather than just drawing from a hat at the end of the season? To send the better teams up? Surely, if we have faith in the league system, a team placed third is better than a team placed fourth, so they should go up.

If we want to keep the play-offs in some form or another (and I think we should), but we also want to offer a better chance of promoting better teams, then why not mess about with the format a little?

Staggered play-offs

Promote the top two teams, but restructure the playoff matches so they run as follows (With all three rounds played over one-leg at neutral venues):

That way, finishing third means you only have to win one game to go up—you still have to win a game, it’s not a gimmie by any stretch of the imagination, but you afford yourself a little rest at least. The first and second rounds may just tire the side that reaches the final (though they will have played no more games than they would at present), but they may give them a good running start—in the same way we often see inter-toto cup entrants start the domestic season well in the premiership.

If the third placed team has been much better throughout the season than those placed lower, you’d expect them to progress more easily in this system than the current one, but if it was tight, you’d expect the run-up to have an effect.

Punish the slackers

If third place in the Championship gives you a shot at promotion, why not give the third from bottom team in the Premiership a shot at staying up? A straight playoff between the two sides would be a massively interesting game, and in cases where good sides are going down and poor sides trying to go up, it’d keep the quality in the top division as high as possible. It does however play into the rich getting richer/poor getting poorer model. Sometimes, crap teams morally deserve a shot at the big-league; even if it’s just to make a bit of cash (though promoted sides rarely make any money in their first year in the Premiership due to silly transfers and high wage bills and bonus packages.

However significant this effect, it could be balanced by forcing a playoff between fourth from bottom in the Premiership and fourth place in the Championship; ditto for fifth and sixth. Teams from lower divisions regularly upset the ‘big boys’ in the FA and League Cup, so why not now; when there’s even more at stake. The beauty of this system would be that at the end of these kind of playoffs you could have as many as 6 teams swapping places, or as few as two. There’d always be some changeover so it wouldn’t be boring, but it’d make the teams five or six places from the bottom of the league and safe from relegation (but no hope of Europe) something to play for.

What do you lot think?

(16) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

# Posted by Anonymous Darren at 6:13 PM
I like those ideas Jordan,

Scotland have a similar play off relegation system and it's a nice idea for the English leagues.

Another modfication to those ideas would be the the third bottom side plays in the playoffs entering one of the rounds mentioned in the article.
# Posted by Blogger Jordan at 10:29 AM
That's interesting...

Final round you reckon? So they only have to play one game?
# Posted by Anonymous Darren at 9:12 PM
could be any round, given the go straight down now entering at the first stage would be a bonus to them over what they have now.

3rd would be given a final spot in my opinion. Not sure how the rest would work,

if you had 4 teams (including relegated team) you'd have the final as normal then another game vs 3rd, which would be wierd!
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