Monday, March 25, 2013

The Championship Play-Off Lottery!

The gloves are off!

Promotion to the English Premier league (EPL) next season and the huge financial windfall that goes with it is oh so close that clubs and their fans' can almost taste the sweet smell of success! It is akin to dangling a scratch and sniff card in front of a host of clubs, except that this season, for some inexplicable reason the clubs in the race for promotion seem to have lost their sense of smell!

With just eight games to go in the npower Championship there are seven teams that are in with a realistic shout of going up automatically. For those clubs that fail to make the two automatic places and with it a guaranteed place in the top flight of English football next season, four of them must face the drama and potential pain or elation that is part and parcel of the play-off lottery!

Cardiff look almost certain to go up automatically, probably as champions, but that still leaves one automatic promotion spot available, and six teams to fight it out for the right to take their place in the English Premier League at the start of the 2013/14 season.

The teams that fail to take that final automatic spot following a ten month season spanning 46 games will then have the outcome of their season defined by just two, possibly three matches. There is no single sporting event in the world more valuable to the winners, than the victors of the play-offs, who will end up approximately £85million better off, predominately made up from the commercial television revenue that the English Premier League generates. However, by convention the two finalists agree that the loser will keep all the gate receipts from the game, so as to very slightly soften the financial blow of missing out.......(at a guess i would say a figure in the region of £3million - peanuts in comparison).

The Football League Championship play-offs are a series of matches contested by the teams finishing from 3rd to 6th in the Football League Championship table. The semi-finals are played over two legs, with 6th playing 3rd and 5th playing 4th, with the return fixtures following. The final is played at Wembley Stadium and the winners are promoted to the English Premier League.

Cardiff have been top for sometime now, and although they have had the odd wobble over the last few months, so have everyone else around them. Taking Cardiff out of the equation as they are nine points clear of dropping out of the top two places, the battle for the second automatic spot is between Hull, Watford, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, Leicester and Brighton with Bolton and Middlesbrough in a position to pounce should the wheels fall off of any of the aforementioned clubs in the final month of the 2012/13 season.

As I write only two points separate 2nd placed Hull from 3rd placed Watford, just three points separate Hull from 4th placed Crystal Palace, while six points separate Palace from 6th placed Leicester. Brighton lie 7th on the same number of points as Leicester, but with an inferior goal difference.

Looking at the run-in:

Hull still have to play Watford, Middlesbrough and Cardiff, but face difficult games against Barnsley, Bristol City, Ipswich and Wolves, who are all fighting for Championship survival at the bottom.

Watford's fixtures obviously include Hull, but also Cardiff and Leicester and potentially tricky games against Peterborough and Blackburn who are both fighting to stay in the division.

Forest's run in includes games against Brighton, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Leicester along with struggling Barnsley and Blackpool.

Leicester's fixtures include games against Brigthon, Bolton, Watford, Palace and Forest and they like Hull and Forest face Barnsley.

Brighton's run in includes matches against Forest, Leicester,and Middlesbrough, along with relegation candidates Wolves and Peterborough and struggling Blackpool.

Crystal Palace would seem to have the easier of the run-ins, but as anyone who watches Championship football knows, there are no easy games in this league hence why no teams have run away at the top or been cast adrift at the bottom. Four points separate the bottom four clubs, and only eight points separate the bottom eleven.
Palace only play Leicester of the current top ten teams, but face a plethora of fixtures against struggling sides, namely Blackpool, Barnsley, Ipswich, Blackburn and Peterborough on the final day.

You can argue that it's better to play teams around you at the top as you are in control of your own destiny, but at the same time they are the form sides. On the otherhand playing the bottom sides may seem a better option, but they will be fighting for their lives and definitely won't role over easily. Perhaps fixtures against mid-table teams with nothing to play for is the best option, but to be honest this is not a division where any one team has the 'right' to beat another team, and the higher you finish the more that club earns financially.

There will also be players at all clubs in the division playing for new contracts or looking to impress the powers that be at other clubs. At the end of the day as a club you firstly need to get out and win your own fixtures, then you will have done everything in your power to put yourself in a the best possible position come the end of the season. What will be will be, but at the end of the day you cannot rely on other teams to do you so called 'favours.'

When the Championship play-offs were first introduced for the 1986/87 season, they originally featured a top flight team as well as the three second tier clubs. This format was continued for the 1987/88, but discontinued afterwards to include only the four teams who finished behind the team or teams winning automatic promotion. As before, the semi-final and final were both two-legged.                                              
        The New Wembley Stadium

Since 1989/90, the final has been a single game, played at Wembley Stadium, although from 2001 to 2006, it was played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, while Wembley was being rebuilt.              

Ipswich Town have been in the Championship play-offs a record seven times: 1987, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, 2004, and 2005, making the final only once and winning it in 2000.

Leicester City have reached the Championship play-off final four times, losing two in 1992 and                 1993 and winning two in 1994 and 1996.

Crystal Palace have also appeared in the final four times, losing in 1996 and winning in 1989, 1997 and 2004.

Birmingham City have reached the Championship play-offs four times consecutively from 1999 to 2002, losing the first three attempts before, in 2002, reaching the Play-Off Final at the Millennium Stadium, and finally winning promotion to the Premier League.

The team finishing highest in the league (third) has succeeded in winning promotion ten times out of twenty-six seasons up to 2012, with the 4th placed team managing four promotions, the 5th six promotions and the 6th five promotions.

The play-off winners have managed to finish above the Championship winners and runners-up in the subsequent Premier League season on five occasions: Blackburn Rovers in 1992/93, Leicester City in 1996/97, Ipswich Town in 2000/01, West Ham United in 2005/06 and Swansea City in 2011/12.

Championship Play-Off Records:

Most play-off promotions: 3 – Crystal Palace (1989, 1997, 2004)
Most play-off finals: 4 – Crystal Palace, Leicester City
Most play-off final defeats: 3 – Sheffield United (1997, 2003, 2009)
Most play-off participations: 7 – Ipswich Town
Most unsuccessful play-off participations: 6 – Ipswich Town (from 7 in total)
Teams without any unsuccessful play-off participations: Notts County (1991), Hull City (2008), Burnley (2009), Swansea City (2011)
Biggest aggregate win: Chelsea 6–1 Blackburn Rovers (1988); Leicester City 6–1 Cambridge United (1992); and Hull City 6–1 Watford (2008)
Biggest home win: Leicester City 5–0 Cambridge United (Semi-final, 1992)
Biggest away win: Birmingham City 0–4 Barnsley (Semi-final, 2000)
Biggest win in a final: Bolton Wanderers 3–0 Preston North End (2001); Sheffield United 0–3 Wolverhampton Wanderers (2003); and Leeds United 0–3 Watford (2006)
Highest scoring final: 8 goals – Charlton Athletic 4–4 Sunderland (1998)
Highest scoring play-off match: 8 goals – Charlton Athletic 4–4 Sunderland (Final, 1998); Ipswich Town 5–3 Bolton Wanderers (Semi-final, 2000)
Highest scoring tie (aggregate): 12 goals – Ipswich Town 7–5 Bolton Wanderers (2000)
Highest attendance: 86,703 – Bristol City vs Hull City (Final, 2008)
Lowest attendance: 9,225 – Cambridge United vs Leicester City (Semi-final, 1992).

The English Premier League:

The competition formed as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from The Football League, which was originally founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. This deal will be worth £3 billion as of 2013–14, with BSkyB and BT Group securing the rights to broadcast 116 and 38 games respectively.
The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a TV audience of 4.7 billion people.

The Premier League distributes a small portion of its television revenue to clubs that are relegated from the league in the form of "parachute payments". At the end of the current season 2012/13 those clubs relegated from the EPL will get a proposed £23m in the first year after relegation and £18m in the second, followed by £9m a year in years three and four!

In contrast Championship clubs that are not in receipt of parachute payments will receive around £2.3m in solidarity payments. This ridiculously one sided financial divide is currently being looked into by The Football League as they attempt to look at ways of mitigating the advantage of parachute payments handed to clubs relegated to the Championship. Some Football League Club owners who attended a summit meeting last Wednesday (20th March 2013) claimed they may have to walk away from the game if they were forced to compete with clubs that received more in parachute payments than their entire budget for the year.

Attached is a link to The Guardian's article on the subject right here!

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