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Can football learn from rugby league's play-offs?

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Paul Fletcher | 19:23 UK time, Sunday, 27 September 2009

It was another busy weekend of sport, but one of the highlights for me was watching Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington announce his team's opponents for next Friday's Super League play-off semi-final at Headingley Carnegie.

Giving a side the right to pick who they will face in the semis is a new concept from the ever innovative Rugby Football League, keen to increase the intrigue surrounding the re-jigged play-off system that now features eight teams.

Having finished top of the table after the regular season and won their opening play-off game against Hull KR, Leeds were able to select either Catalans Dragons or Wigan Warriors as their adversaries on 2 October.

Leeds Rhinos celebrate winning the 2008 Grand FinalThe RFL is not afraid to try to improve their play-off system

And they eventually plumped for Catalans, Hetherington dragging out the announcement with all the tease and titillation of a skilled burlesque performer.

It's an interesting decision and one laced with danger. The Dragons may have finished in the eighth and final play-off spot, 16 points adrift of the table-topping Rhinos, but the French side have the wind in their sails.

They secured their place in the top eight with a shock victory at St Helens in the final round of the regular season and have since beaten Wakefield and Huddersfield.

Still, Leeds have ensured that the other semi-final will be a keenly-contested derby between bitter rivals St Helens and Wigan. That, in turn, could mean that, should the defending champions reach the Grand Final at Old Trafford on 10 October, they will come up against a team with less petrol in the tank.

But then again, by selecting Catalans have the Rhinos effectively done all the motivational work for Dragons coach Kevin Walters?

It is an intriguing situation.

It's also an idea that might inject some spice into the Football League play-offs were they to adopt a similar approach.

What about a system that would allow the teams that finished in the highest play-off spot in the Championship, League One and League Two tables to decide which of the three sides below them they would meet in the semi-finals?

Bury finished fourth in League Two last season - the highest placed play-off spot in a division where the top three teams are automatically promoted.

They played - and lost - to Shrewsbury in their semi-final but, given the choice, might have decided instead to take on Rochdale, who finished sixth but had not won in their last six games of the campaign.

Of course, some people are against the play-off format per se and would like to see a return to the old system of promotion.

But the play-offs are here to stay and I think it would make for great entertainment if the team in third was able to choose who they face.

I mean, just imagine how the bellicose Neil Warnock would react if his Crystal Palace team became the chosen opponents.

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  • Comment number 1.

    That would be amazing and would definately give those who finshed top a sort of advantage which they need and quite rightly so!!!

    I for one being Canadian an all love the playoffs. The run to the stanley cup is brilliant. How do you think you English guys would react to having this exciting system introduced at the end of the premier league season. It would be like combining the league cup within the league and then perhaps would dispersuade the likes on Man Utd and Chelsea from playing their reserves in this compotition.

  • Comment number 2.

    I like the idea for the promotional play-offs - it is slightly car crash in it's fascination on strategy.

    But NO Albertaforestfan not for the Premiership. The team who finish top of the league at the end of the full round robin must win the trophy. That is why the 39th game was also so wrong, there must be an equal test of playing everyone and that is the only way to decide who is the best team.

    And if one team gets a long way ahead early in the season and loses the last 6 games and wins on goal difference on the last day - so be it, they are still the best team over the year.

    It is a farce that a team who don't finish top can win the whole competition. Ask Swindon Robins Speedway team who missed out on a trophy exactly that way.

    and p.s. sometimes it is exciting to see these reserve teams and get a peek at the stars of the future and how they will cope with the big boys. Remember you are commenting two clubs who have done amazingly well in the League Cup recently.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't think there's much wrong with the current system and certainly would not want this rather pointless 'choosing' system.

  • Comment number 4.

    Personally, I've always felt the play-offs should be structured thus:

    - The teams finishing 3rd through to 6th (4th to 7th in the 4th tier) enter the play-offs

    - GAME 1: The 6th placed side travels to the 5th-placed team for a one-off match, the winner having to be decided on the day. The winner progresses to game 2.

    - GAME 2: 4th placed side hosts the winner of game 1. The winner is decided on the day and progresses to the third and final match.

    - GAME 3: the 3rd-placed side hosts the winner of game 2, in a one-off match at Wembley. The winner of game 3 wins promotion.

    A few points here need to be elucidated. Firstly, the teams are handicapped in order of their position in the table - finishing higher up the table brings the reward of playing less matches, as well as, in the cases of games 1 and 2, home advantage. The 3rd placed team does not receive any home advantage but this is because it is pertinent to play instead at Wembley (given the choice I'm sure any and all teams would prefer to play at Wembley due to the increased exposure and revenue). However, any minor disadvantage is in turn offset by the fact they only have to play one game to win promotion, and may, due to the format, be playing only the 6th placed side. A 6th placed side reaching the final may have built up momentum and could be a formiddable force, of course, but this is offset by the fresh legs that the higher placed teams would have due to not playing more games on a tight schedule, which could be invaluable. In short, this system provides a balanced structure of advantages and disadvantages, which nevertheless allows any and all of the teams involved a fair shot at promotion, and also should provide intriguing viewing for fans and neutrals.

    The main problem I see with this idea is the reduced number of matches and thus TV revenue. Being cynical, we all know the play-offs are a money-spinner that are there to be milked. However, a two-leg system that retains the handicapped structure of the match-ups could be a viable possibility, though may lead to an over-crowded fixture list.

    HOWEVER, to comment on the actual blog and point in question... although I personally wouldn't be that enamoured to see the choosing system implemented, two points stand in its favour. 1) Some system of incentive needs to be introduced to induce teams to, and reward them for, finishing higher up the table, and 2) Such a change would be easy enough to implement without a major re-organisation of the system. Both of which make this much more likely than my own preference.

  • Comment number 5.

    Canary how long would you space between these games? It would have to be maximum 2 games a week and the play off would have to be on a saturday potentially leaving the team in third a fortnight between competitive games, seems a bit long to me.

  • Comment number 6.

    To be honest, I've never been a fan of play offs in any sport. While I recognise that they add excitement to proceedings, I for one would be a pretty miffed performer if I finished, say, 3rd in the championship, ten points clear of the rest of the play off teams (could happen) and then didn't get promoted because of one or two games.

    To me the whole point of a season is to see who is the best overall over however many games, and play offs negate this.

  • Comment number 7.

    Bluethirdkit- The problem with speedway is that if teams have nothing to ride for halfway through the season then crowds drop and teams suffer financially so they have to have the playoffs to keep interest going for longer. Im sure you will get your revenge tonight for us beating you in the final 2 years ago anyway!

    A more general point on speedway, this year the team that finished top of the league (Swindon) not only got to choose which team they face in the playoffs, but also get an 8 point advantage over the tie. Could never see that happening in football or any other sport for that matter

    The football playoffs are brilliant. Im a Leicester fan and was lucky to be at 4 play off finals in the mid-90s and there is no better way to go up and for any fan to see their team play at wembley is a pleasure I dont want to lose

  • Comment number 8.

    If I were on the Catalans team I'd want to give Leeds a stuffing for the insult. The best thing to have done would be to come out with a coin, toss it and pick based on that. "We don't care who we play, we're going to win anyway".

  • Comment number 9.

    Hmmm... the Great "Should the Premier League Have Play-Offs" Debate??

    I've wondered for some time whether the money men at the Premier League would adopt such as system. Basically ManU won the Premier League last season by being the most efficient at beating the lesser teams and wrapped up the title with an "exhilarating" 0-0 draw against Arsenal.

    I've always thought that the any league format has so many inconsistencies the fact that a team can win by a couple of points and claim to the "best team" was always dubious. Yes, it can end up exciting but rarely does. Isn't there a better way of crowning the Champions? To say that its been an "even playing field" from Aug to May is ridiculous.The final league positions is the best good guide to better teams over the season but then we can use them as an "End of Season playoff system" which seems a more logical way of deciding the ultimate champions for the season as they would have to deliver in an intense pressue environment, which the rest of sport seem to heve adopted tp great effect.

    You couldn't run a one-off game system for football, as with RL, as away teams would just put 10 men behind the balls and hope for pens which doesn't give home teams a real advantage as with rugby but perhaps a series of games at Wembley, or other neutral grounds with equal support, would make it a bit more competitive but overall, top of the league of the end of the season is looking more like an advantage in a play-off system.

    PS Mr Premier League Money Man - How much money could you sell a Premier League Play Off Final at Wembley. Compare that to the projected revenues for the 39th league games. ManU v Liverpool Play off final compared to Bolton v Portsmouth in Kuwait, Wolves v Hull in UAE etc. etc.

    Anyway, if we have the same Top 4 for the next few seasons then something will have to chnage as the money generated will start to fall and that will never do will it??

  • Comment number 10.

    Play-offs are no good, end of story. The league, whichever one it might be, should be awarded to the team who performed most consistently for the duration of the competition and that is that. Otherwise we would end up with a situation where certain sides (e.g. any team managed by Rafa Benitez...) would rest key players throughout the season to keep them fresh for the major competition at the season's end.

    Play-offs wouldn't find the best side in a competition. It would identify the freshest in-form side at the end of a long season, and no real football fan wants that.

  • Comment number 11.

    Why is there always someone who wantys to needlessly change something that is working.

    The divisional play-offs work well enough as it is and the fact that the 3rd placed team playes the 6th placed team is the incentive. Choosing would be wrong and teams would rightly feel insulted which could end up costing the higher placed team.

    A series of matches such as was suggested by #4 canarychibba would be that it would take too long and also would work against the highest placed team as they would have not played for a week or so while their opponents would be match fit and would be building up some momentum.

    As for the RFU play-off idea of the top 2 ask Gloucester fans what they think of that having finished top of the league twice by large margins and then losing out to Wasps in a game that exists solely to make money for the RFU.

    The current league format works perfectly as everyone has the same opportunity to do well. For example Liverpool took 6 points from Utd last season but Utd took 1 from Arsenal and 6 from Cheslsea and Arsenal took 4 from Liverpool & I think 1 from Chelsea whereas Chelsea took 6 from Liverpool and 4 from Arsenal meaning in reality everyone finished in the same places.

    We should not invent a play-off simply to compensate for the fact that Liverpool, Chelsea & Arsenal lost to or drew with teams that Utd beat.

    Leave things alone and let us enjoy our football as it is.

  • Comment number 12.

    Billy Athletic

    I take it you're not a fan on one of the Premier leagues top 4. At least not one who goes to the game.

    How would the average United fan feel at a say 5 game series in London at £90 a ticket in the space of a month?

    Sure, financially great for the clubs but a nightmare for people like me who'd be intent on ensuring I get to every game.

  • Comment number 13.

    Personally I think the playoffs are a ridiculous concept. A team can be mediocre, finish 6th, win three games (potentially on a penalty shootout) and find themselves being a premiership team. It doesn't promote consistency in my opinion. All that it means is more often than not a poor championship club comes up and gets thumped week by week (e.g. Derby two seasons ago).

    If we are going to keep the playoffs I would promote the top two and relegate the bottom two. The 3rd and 4th team in the lower league and 3rd and 4th bottom in the higher league would enter a group where they play each team once. The top two go up and the bottom two go down.

    I think too often than not decent championship teams don't get promoted due to the playoffs and really poor premiership teams stay up (and vice versa).

  • Comment number 14.

    There are plenty of people out there who would like to see the play-off system scrapped entirely. There is a very strong argument for that but it is not going to prevail - I think that we all have to accept that the play-offs are here to stay.

    That being the case - should the highest-placed team be able to choose their opponents? I think it would reward their efforts through the season more than the current system.

  • Comment number 15.

    It may well 'reward' them in the short-term, Paul, but what will you be saying if Leeds lose on Friday night, as frankly I hope they do. I have nothing against Leeds whatsoever (I have no allegiances in rugby league), but I just think this whole concept is daft and, rather than rewarding the higher finishing side, is potentially a far bigger disadvantage to them. There is no doubt in my mind that Catalans will be even more motivated for this game than they otherwise would have been, regardless of the fact they are a form side at the moment, thus making them a far tougher proposition for Leeds than they perhaps needed to be. I hope the idea is scrapped.

    If football takes this idea, then it will just be further proof that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

  • Comment number 16.

    If the play-offs were got rid of, all this would do would create a whole load of "dead-rubber" matches towards the end of the season, with teams having nothing to play for in terms of promotion or avoiding relegation.

    This could also prove unfair to those teams that did have something to play for, one side may have a lot more games against teams who need the points for whatever reason, while another may have many games against the mid-table opponents who may well have lost interest in the season. If these two teams for instance were competing against each other for one promotion place, for instance, it would give one of them an unfair advantage.

    Everyone knows before the season starts about what can happen in the play-offs, it is not like a team finishes 3rd several points ahead of 4th, 5th and 6th and then is suddenly told they have to play off against these other teams!

    The idea of making the play-offs a one leg affair with the higher placed team having a home game, is something I do not agree with either. Aaway teams do much better these days than they did in the past and it is not uncommon to see some teams with a better away record than their home form. Would giving them 'home advantage' actually be an advantage to them?

  • Comment number 17.

    Football doesn't give enough of an advantage to the higher placed side in the playoffs. Rugby league has now gone too far the other way.

  • Comment number 18.

    The play-offs are a brilliant end to the championship season. They also extend the opportunity for promotion down the league by a massive amount. A mid table side that couldn't dream of automatic promotion can scrape into the playoffs by winning the last 3 games. Otherwise, the end of the season becomes much less exciting.

    Should the football format be changed? well I don't think it would hurt to freshen it up, maybe add another two teams and have 5th vs 8th and 6th vs 7th in quarter finals, with the 3rd place team playing the winner of the first tie and the 4th place playing the winner of the second in the semis. The whole picking your opponents thing is interesting. It could work really well but will take a few years to bed in.

    I definitely think that football can learn from Rugby, but the Grand Final concept is not one I favour for the winning of the Premiership title. Better to award the 4th Champions league place to the winners of a play-off tournament.

  • Comment number 19.

    The play-offs are regarded as "unfair". Of course they are, but any league is far from being entirely fair either.

    Over a period of about nine months, different teams have different circumstances at different times, with them playing each other at different points in the season. It would be impossible to work out how it favours or goes against each team, but it would be fair to say that it doesn't entirely even itself out. There has, is, and always will be a level of natural unfairness in how a league season works out, depending on when and where each team plays each other and what their circumstances (form, injuries, suspensions, managerial situation, financial situation etc) are at a certain period of time because it varies over several months.

  • Comment number 20.

    Personally, I like the idea of the Playoffs, however. I would like to see a format that includes some teams getting automatic promotion / relegation, then the playoffs including the next best from the lower division & the next least worst from the division above.
    The playoffs would then determine:
    Who stays up, who gets relegated, who gets promoted & who stays down.

    A possible scenario could be: Assuming 2 automatic promotion / relegation places, (or maybe only 1) then 2 from higher division & 2 from lower division play in a mini league, with the top 2 going to the higher division & the bottom 2 going to the lower division.

    This provides interest to supporters from both divisions & as each team only plays 3 matches could take place weekend / mid-week / weekend, with each round of matches being played at the same time.

  • Comment number 21.

    The EPL should definitely NOT have a playoff system. The perfect example of this is look at the near end season split in the SPL where in theory a lower six team could have more points than the champions but still only be placed 6th.
    The question though was should the playoffs include given the 3rd place team the choice of picking their side. I can actually see how this would be preferable as all teams have bogey teams that they just can't beat and if this happens to be the sixth placed team then it doesn't really favour the 3rd placed team who worked harder than the sixth placed team.

  • Comment number 22.

    The whole club call 'innovation' is ridiculous. I don't know anyone who thinks it serves any real purpose. It is a gimmick, and an unnecessary one at that.

    I've come to terms with the fact that a team who has a poor season and finishes below half way (i.e eighth) and somehow be awarded the chance to win some silverware but this club call needs scrapping. It is a joke and makes us look a bit daft.

    Gary Hetherington's speech on injuries, suspensions etc was a load of rubbish. If we had beaten Wigan, it would have been a Leeds/Rovers semi; as that did not happen, Catalans were the default pick. Simple as that.

    Leeds for the SL title again this year. I urge everyone who reads this to watch St Helens v Wigan at the weekend. They will bash 10 bells out of each other, it promises to be an absolute corker of a game and I can't wait!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with AlanB1, what a great idea, automatic relegation/promotion for one or two teams and playoffs between the 'playoff' teams from both divisions for the remaining place/s.

  • Comment number 24.

    I don't buy into this idea that Catalans will be more motivated because they have been picked out as the easier team.

    At the end of the day, Catalans are one game away from a Grand Final. If you need any added motivation in that situation, then professional sport clearly isn't for you.

  • Comment number 25.

    The play offs are good for the game!

    I know a lot of people wont like that but it makes a team who's season would normally be over very important. A team as low down as 10th or 11th can still have something to play for where they wouldn't if there were no play offs!

    I really like this idea it would be a great twist on the football league as a whole.

    Nothing like this would work in the prem but how about a bonus point system. If a team won by three or four clear goals in a game they get awarded an extra point similar to in rugby aswell???

    It would certanly make the goal shy teams play differently!!

    any thoughts guys?????

  • Comment number 26.

    I like this idea. Who does it hurt? Most likely the top-placed team would nominate the bottom-placed team anyway, so it wouldn't raise too many eyebrows. Some have called it pointless but I don't think it hurts to bring it in so I guess it's a 'half-full or half-empty' situation - either you'd like to see a harmless addition to the current system, or you can't be bothered with something that wouldn't make much difference in the long-run.

    As for the play-off system per se, I'm torn. On the one hand, I love the drama and the 'cup-factor' that it has. The third-placed team in the league are told "if you want promotion, go out and prove that you're better than the other 21 teams below you" and the sixth-placed team are told "promotion - take it, it's yours!" (Achilles-style)

    On the other hand, whilst cup competitions are dramatic and reward teams who, on the day, turn up and deliver, a league is a better indication of a team's ability across a season. There would seem an injustice if a side finished ten or twelve points ahead of another, and still missed out on promotion.

    Also, how many teams have put together strong runs at the end of a season that has carried them into the Premiership well before they were ready? Iain Dowie's Crystal Palace, Graham Taylor's and Aidy Boothroyd's Watford, Billy Davies' Derby, to name a few.

    To bring this ramble to an end, this is the system I'd propose;

    Championship Winner - Automatic promotion
    Championship Runner-Up - Play-Off vs. Championship Fifth Place
    Championship Third-Place - Play-Off vs. Championship Fourth Place

    The winners of those play-offs would then play the 19th and 18th placed Premiership team respectively, with the winners either achieving or retaining Premiership status. The side bottom of the Prem would be automatically relegated.

    I've just realised that my system totally ignores the very point of Fletch's blog. Oh well!

  • Comment number 27.

    To be fair, the Catalans pick actually doesn't change the dynamics of the play-offs in Super League at all (with the exception of a 15 minute chat on satellite news channel with some Yorkshire gentleman dressed in a suit) as that is how the draw would have panned out anyway following the weekend matches.

    The play-offs in football are an excellent idea and one that I have grown up with watching it. We have had similar situations up here when restructuring, the most memorable being when Dundee United edged out Partick Thistle to keep their Premier League place over 2 excellent games of football. It was kept for a couple more seasons but didn't go ahead due to SPL stadium criteria and Falkirk not meeting this, saving Motherwell one year and then Aberdeen and Dunfermline the following year when a 3 team play-off was scheduled.

    As a supporter of a team struggling in the SPL but having spent many a year in the first division as well I would not be against the introduction of play-offs to decide a 2nd promotion/relegation spot in the SPL, such as in place in the lower Scottish leagues now where the 2nd bottom team are in play-offs with 2nd to 4th in the league below. These have worked to an extent, however I feel would benefit from being one off finals played on the same day at a stadium such as Tynecastle, Fir Park or Easter Road and get neutrals as well as the supporters of all 4 clubs in the stadium rather than being over 2 legs and in front of slightly above average crowds of a few hundred.

  • Comment number 28.

    There needs to be an advantage for the team finishing highest, be it progress if scores level, choice of home or away first, or bye into the final

    Otherwise you get a situation where Palace fluked a late run and got in via 6th place as the form team.

  • Comment number 29.

    My proposal for a new play off system is this:

    Game One - 5th place at home to 6th place
    Game Two - 4th place at home to winner of Game One
    Final - 3rd place V winner of Game Two, at Wembley

    That way there is a clear advantage the higher up the table you finish, but I also like the idea in this blog

  • Comment number 30.

    Alot of people point to the US sports for examples about play off systems but the only reason it makes sense is if in the case of the NFL its impossible for all teams to play each other home and away in a season. (in the case of the NFL there 32 teams but only 16 games per season).

    In such example in football is the MLS in where until to next season there was not a balance schedule. (though with Philadelphia joining to make it 16 teams this will be the case next season)

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't normally comment on these blogs but a friend of mine made a suggestion relating to this just the other day, although it is Premier - centric.
    If the top 2 come up automatically and the bottom 2 go down automaticaly, and there HAS to be a play off, why not have the 3rd bottom team from the prem, play the 3rd placed team from the Champ in a 2 legged play off?
    One team fighting to go up, the other team fighting to stay up... could be entertaining.

  • Comment number 32.

    Interesting to read some comments from non-RL people. Believe me, not all RL fans are happy with this and I thought it was naff but it has grown on me and could prove to be a real winner. I remember the play offs starting in football and people moaning how unfair they were...but it didn't stop them did it?

    As for play offs being unfair and the 'top of the table winner' system being fair. Sport is not always about what is fair is it? What if Man U lost 4 of their main players for 10 games and ended up finishing second to a team that had no injuries? Is that 'fair' no. Unless you are going to say "well that's the way it goes" to which I would add, yes it is...unfair isn't it?

  • Comment number 33.

    doesnt really make sense. the teams finishing third wouldnt push for 2nd, they would just settle for 3rd and then pick the worst team out of the rest of the play offs, takes away the competitiveness of the teams trying to secure the last autmoatic promotion place

  • Comment number 34.

    As much as I like the idea of a 3rd place team gaining advantage by choosing opposition I don't think it is something that will be pushed through in the near future.

    I agree that sometimes team can be cursing the underdogs that made a late resurgence into the last playoff space after a run of 8 straight wins but at the end of the day, you would still need to beat them in the final anyways.

  • Comment number 35.

    31. At 2:31pm on 28 Sep 2009, BigIrishGooner wrote:

    why not have the 3rd bottom team from the prem, play the 3rd placed team from the Champ in a 2 legged play off?


    Also a good idea, I'm sure I saw this in lower leagues somewhere.... I'd like to think Newcastle could have been spared relegation this way but it may have added to the humiliation but seeing as they are top of the Championship it shows exactly how big the gulf is beneath the Premiership.

  • Comment number 36.

    Such a bad idea, playoffs are bad anyway and if football went down this route, as some chairmen want to introduce then I would stop watching football. The team that finishes top wins the league end of. They have proved themselves to be the best over a season. But to suggest that a team can select their oponents is crazy and I'm amazed that the RL fans have just accepted this.

  • Comment number 37.

    Can you imagine the bronze medal in 2012 marathan allocated as follows:

    3rd, 4th 5th and 6th stay behind at the line. First to run another 500m = bronze winner.

  • Comment number 38.

    rob_LFC_fairburn (post 33) - are you sure? To suggest a team wouldn't bother pushing for an automatic promotion spot so they can choose their opponents in the play-offs strikes me as crazy talk. A manager and his squad would much rather avoid the end of season lottery, with the extra weeks that involves, and head straight to the beach.

  • Comment number 39.

    shades846 can I draw your attention to the NHL, here to win the Stanley cup you would have to play a maximum of something like 83 games. It means that in a regular season you play nearly 60 games. Therefore you at least play every team once in a season and generally home and away. As the playoff are split into the conferences as they are in all sports over here the teams you play in the playoffs you would have played at least once home and away, although normally it is a lot more. The playoffs would create an exciting end to the season and given the curtrent boring state of most leagues in Europe it would certainly liven things up.

  • Comment number 40.

    Whilst play offs may seem alien to a lot of UK fans, IMO they are THE way to settle a Championship, I wouldn't want to go back to a 'first past the post' system for sure. Even teams playing each other once through the season and the top team being the champs, throws up any number of unfair things. It's just a different and IMO better way of deciding the champions.

  • Comment number 41.

    In OZ for AFL the top 8 teams enter a playoff system whereby 1st plays 4th and 2nd plays 3rd. 5th plays 8th and 6th plays 7th.

    The winners of 5 v 8 and 6 v 7 then go on to play the losers of 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 and then the winners of those matches play winners of 1 v 4 and 2 v 3. As this is played on consequetive weekends the winners of 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 get a weekend off. The playoff system here could incorporate something like that rewards higher placed teams?

  • Comment number 42.

    Nice blog Paul. Ive lived outside of England for several years now and had lost track of Rugby League, as football has always been my passion. I was surprised to hear about the play off system, and have to say i think its a great idea, and one i would love to see in football (for promotion, not the Premier title). It adds some intrigue and drama. Do you pick the lowest team ie 6th, do you pick the one with the worst current form, or do you pick a team you played well against during the normal season. Fantastic. And if you are picked would you raise your game? Surely in the play offs, you raise your game regardless. Catalans players would give 100% whatever.

    Some interesting points on the play offs been spread across 2 divisions also. As a Leeds fan i only know play off heart break - under the old and new system. In 1987 we reached the play off final in the old second division (now championship). The system then was to play against the 3rd bottom team from the 1st division (premiership), which was Charlton Athletic. After a replay we lost the game 2-1. Is it fair to play a team in a division above you? And at a neutral venue? I dont think so.

    Back then the divide wasnt quite so big between the 2 divisions, but nowadays its massive. Last season Newcastle would have been in the play offs (as the team in 18th ) and would have faced Reading, Sheffield United and Burnley (finished in 3rd and 4th, 5th in the championship). This year we can see that the Premiership teams that went down are still head and shoulders above Championship teams even after losing their best players. So what would have happened? More than likely Newcastle would have won that play off competition and stayed up. I think including Premiership teams as their 'last chance' to stay up only suits the Premiership. I would bet EVERY Premier team would vote for that system and every Championship team would vote against it.

    I think the Play offs are great, even though we have played in 4 and lost all 4. It gives teams something to aim for throughout the season and adds romance to the game - would Burnley have gone up without them? Look at Hull - went up via the play offs. Add in the option of picking your opponents and i think it makes it even better. Rugby seems to be the pioneer game for testing out ideas, shame football cant move into the 21st century too! God forbid we get goal line technology, when we can add 2 extra officials behind each goal - what the heck is that all about!

  • Comment number 43.

    By "ever innovative Rugby Football League", I assume you mean another pointless gimmick to go along with playing entire weekends at one ground and scrapping relegation.

  • Comment number 44.

    Spindash, what's wrong with the things you mentioned? The Magic Weekends are ace, I've been to them all. As for the relegation issue, there's no point discussing it on a football blog because RL has way, way different issues it has to face than what football has.

  • Comment number 45.

    I'd scrap the playoffs. It generally leads to false hope and short termism. The playoffs for many sides is seen as a holy grail... they seem to forget that three of the four teams who get into them don't go up.

    I appreciate that one advantage of the playoffs is that it means more teams have something to play for for longer but this could be partially addressed by having more automatic promotion and relegation spots. Personally I'd like to see four up, four down in every division.

  • Comment number 46.

    With so much money at stake in the football leagues (especially in the higher echelons) and the year-in, year-out "rotation" of teams who get promoted then go down again, or down then up again, I don't think being able to pick your opponent is a viable solution. It's like making an iffy system even more unfair. I'd like to see the bottom teams from the higher division in play-offs with the top teams from the lower division to see who should stay/move up and who should go down. Top 3 vs. bottom 3 in a round robin (no knock-out - this is league play so let's keep it that way and leave knock-out to the cup competitions).

  • Comment number 47.

    ForestEgg, that's exactly what I proposed!

    ''TheDickDuff wrote:
    Canary how long would you space between these games? It would have to be maximum 2 games a week and the play off would have to be on a saturday potentially leaving the team in third a fortnight between competitive games, seems a bit long to me.''

    Why would you say that? With international breaks in for instance the Championship, there are often occasions where the teams go two weeks without playing. And this is almost never seen as a negative, with management/players alike commenting that it allows the team to recoup, rest up a bit and take some time out to work on tactics and preparation. Fitness levels will only suffer if the team does no training at all - which wouldn't be the case as anyone around a club would tell you. I would propose that the break could well be an advantage, meaning the 3rd-placed side were fresher than their opponents. Biggest problem I now foresee is the logistics of ticket sales and organising a trip to Wembley on such short notice... so yes, maybe my idea is flawed. No more so than the current system though, and certainly not for the reason you suggest.

    As for the Premiership play-off debate. Play-offs aren't needed in the Prem because with the Europa League qualification spaces, there are always 8 or 9 teams with something to play for in the top-half. This wouldn't be the case in the other leagues if the play-off system was removed.

  • Comment number 48.

    City Hobgblin: How can you say that play offs lead to short-termism, yet then propose 4up 4down? Surely such a scenario would encourage it far moreso?

  • Comment number 49.

    GaffaCake, as a Watford fan of some 31 years, I agree with you about GTs team of 1999. Also, although Aidy's team wasn't ready for the Prem, they certainly didn't come in with a late run. That Championship season was one where the top 6 were almost completely decided with a few weeks left. I think Paul Fletcher has been reading the 606 message boards as I recently contributed to a board about the play-offs.


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