Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Can the Football League learn from the IPL?

In the IPL today Rising Pune Supergiant beat Mumbai Indians by 20 runs to reach the final. It was the first match of the play-offs, which follow a format that the Football League might want to take a close look at.

The Football League introduced play-offs in 1987 to decide the third team to be promoted from the top two divisions and the third from the third tier. They've proved invaluable in maintaining interest for fans longer in the season, but they can be criticised for seeing teams that had a considerably poorer season than others win promotion.

The team that finishes third in the Championship has no advantage over the team that finishes sixth, which does seem somewhat unfair, and can lead to situations such as seen this year when Huddersfield Town rested players for their last few matches. Once they had clinched a play-off place they had no incentive to keep trying to win.

However, in India the IPL the play-offs work differently. The top four teams in the league stage play-off for the title, but there are advantages for finishing higher in the table. The top 2 teams, this year Supergiants and Indians, play for the chance to go straight through to the final. The losing team then has a second chance, playing the winner of the sides finishing 3rd and 4th for a place in the final.

In the Championship this year this would have meant Reading playing Sheffield Wednesday, with the winner straight through to Wembley. The loser would play the winner of Huddersfield Town and Fulham, with the winner of that match also reaching the final. The matches would have to be single leg affairs, with home advantage for the side finishing higher in the league.

To me that sounds like the perfect solution - keeping the excitement of the play-offs and making sure more sides have something to play for at the end of the season, but now giving an advantage for finishing higher.