We could learn a lot from other countries and the promotion system in Italy’s Serie B is no exception.
Three teams are promoted from Serie B – the top two and one from the six teams below those automatic places. Now, I would not be all for having six sides in the play-offs instead of four, but other aspects are very intriguing, such as the rule that if the 3rd placed team is 9 points ahead of the 4th placed team then they too go up automatically – which is fair more than anything.
That scenario did not occur this year, but similar rules prevailed in the Serie B play-off final between Bologna and Pescara as, despite drawing both matches 0-0 and 1-1, Bologna went up due to their higher position in the league. No away goals either, which is another rule that needs to be looked at all over football.
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Sometimes a club that comes 6th in the English League Championship gets promoted at the expense of the 3rd placed side that have sometimes finished miles in front, which is pretty galling. Yes, they know the rules from the start, but this is a rule that would be known from the start as well and a team vying for the play-offs will not be able to rest on their laurels knowing that a widening gap between them and 3rd place could mean no shot at promotion to the Premier League - although it doesn’t happen often.
Blackpool in 2009-10 were the last side that reached the Premier League despite finishing 6th and 9 points behind 3rd and before that it was West Ham United in 2004-05 who came 12 points behind 3rd placed Ipswich Town, so only twice in 11 seasons.
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Since the play-offs were introduced to England in 1987, they have played host to some of the great games and moments within the 28 years since then, so I am not suggesting they should be totally banished as it also provides the teams below with a chance and something to play for rather than a season being potentially over should the top three be way out in front of the rest. But I think the Italians have got it right with the system they use.
It would bring its own excitement and tension to the Championship and beyond as imagine the turnarounds that could occur if a 3rd placed side is two, three points clear of 4th on the last day of the campaign - depending on results it could go from four clubs fighting it out to none. And vice versa, while there will also be the tantalising question of will we or won’t we see the play-offs this year?
Also, it would give the side in third, who have already guaranteed a play-off spot, more to play for should they feel the need to relax and not be bothered whether they finish 3rd or 6th.
With comments like these one might be wondering why I am even suggesting a change in the play-off system, but stating the obvious, there is a big difference between a 3 point gap and a 9 point gap. As I said, that large a points difference doesn’t happen often, but in the scheme of things, neither did ‘goals’ like Frank Lampard’s in the 2010 World Cup against Germany, but the majority of us are loving the goal-line technology and the rightfulness it has brought to the game. And this is the sentiment that is at the heart of the idea of change.
Do you agree with copying a Serie B-style play-off system?