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Fans’ Forum: New National League play-off system works across the pond

ALEX NAREY’S editorial in The NLP last week excellently highlights why the change in the play-off system is actually fairer than the system that presently exists in football play-offs across England.

His reference to the New England Patriots being the first team to reach a Superbowl by winning three games away from home (although they weren’t actually the first Wild Card team to reach the Superbowl, that was the 1980 Oakland Raiders) is spot on – because it is such a rarity.

The NFL play-offs as it is today, which almost perfectly mirrors the National League’s new system, started in 1975.

Since then 47 number one seeds (about 56 per cent) have reached the Superbowl, while only four teams (just under 5 per cent) have won three away games to getto the big game.

Clearly there is a huge difference between finishing first, playing a game less and being at home through the play-offs and finishing fifth or sixth and having to play three games, probably away from home.

Compare that to the current situation in the Football League where the team taking the top-seed’s ‘advantage’ is playing away in the second leg of the semi-final.

Is there really any difference between third and sixth? If you lose that first game 2-0, there really is no advantage at all.

At least with this new system there is a clear difference between positions. Yes, occasionally we will get a team finishing seventh getting promoted and when that happens arms will fly up, just as they do when a team finishes 20 points behind another and knocks them out in the semi-final.

But I am willing to bet the bottom seeds get promoted a lot less frequently than they do now, which surely makes this system fairer?

As Alex says, the play-offs aren’t fair. Of course they aren’t. They are there for money, they are there to extend the season for more teams and they are there to add an entertaining end to the year. But “should we have play-offs” is a completely different argument.

If the play-offs are happening, and let’s face it they are here to stay, I believe everything should be done to ensure that a team finishing higher up the table is given a better opportunity to progress and this system does that. I hope more leagues see sense and follow suit.

ADAM HOOKER, via email

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