Why not give the play-offs a shake-up?

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE -

THE play-offs are a topic that never cease to stir up a bit of con­tro­versy. Some peo­ple love them, oth­ers hate them. How­ever, it’s fair to say that the ge­nie is out of the bot­tle and they are here to stay.

As Graham Westley (page 13) points out, even Mans­field Town in 12th still had a chance of get­ting into the League Two play-offs head­ing into yes­ter­day’s fi­nal round of reg­u­lar sea­son games.

The big plus is that more teams have some­thing to play for, in­stead of fea­tur­ing in dead rub­bers, in the lat­ter stages of the sea­son.

How­ever, can we do things to im­prove the cur­rent set-up? One of the com­plaints about the play-offs is that the teams fin­ish­ing in the higher po­si­tions don’t re­ceive any real ad­van­tage, bar­ring a home sec­ond leg.

And Fleetwood Town boss Uwe Rosler (page 20) points out that he’s not con­vinced hav­ing the sec­ond leg at home is a plus. While his team went to Brad­ford and back for the first leg, the Ban­tams only have one jour­ney – to Fleetwood – be­fore the sec­ond leg.

Rest is vi­tal in pro­fes­sional sport and Rosler reck­ons his side will have been ham­pered by the ex­tra travel. It’s an in­ter­est­ing point.

Is there any­thing that can be done? Westley sug­gests the semi-fi­nals should be sin­gle-leg games and that’s not a bad call. The sides fin­ish­ing in the higher po­si­tions get a home semi-fi­nal, giv­ing them a def­i­nite re­ward for do­ing bet­ter in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Here’s an­other idea. If the semis are over two legs, the higher-placed team goes through if the tie fin­ishes all-square. This is an­other con­crete ad­van­tage for be­ing more suc­cess­ful over the whole cam­paign.

There is an­other pos­i­tive to these sug­ges­tions. If you make it more at­trac­tive to fin­ish, say, third or fourth in the Cham­pi­onship, it is less likely that clubs, such as Hud­der­s­field against rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Birm­ing­ham last week, would rest play­ers in the fi­nal games, an­ger­ing clubs fight­ing to stay up.

Ner­vous times

WHILE Brighton and New­cas­tle bat­tle it out for the Cham­pi­onship ti­tle this af­ter­noon, most at­ten­tion will be on the other end of the di­vi­sion. It prom­ises to be a nail-bit­ing 90 min­utes for the fans of Black­burn Rovers, Not­ting­ham For­est and Birm­ing­ham City...

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