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My Pre-Playoff Rant

By David B14/5/2015 13:29Thu May 14 13:29:46 2015In response to Re: Pre - Play off Rant

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I have to agree about the playoffs and I have always held this opinion. The bottom line is that playoffs reward mediocrity at the expense of quality – a bit like a school sports day when there are no winners and everyone gets a prize. The bottom line in sport is that winning matters.

Of course, competing is important (as Baron de Coubertin said), but did Eric Moussambani deserve a medal when his time in the 100m freestyle at the 2000 Olympic Games was more than 50 seconds slower than the nearest competitor and more than 64 seconds slower than the 48.64 recorded by the fastest qualifier? Of course not. He might have been a hero but he did not deserve a place in the next round. If you finish third in the table and two teams go up, you don’t deserve promotion. Tables rarely lie and the best teams get the most points. Why should they then have to go through the lottery of losing everything because of one off-day?

Maybe if the playoffs were handicapped so that the better team gets a material advantage – and playing at home is nowhere near sufficient – it would be more palatable. In a one-off match, one score for every four or five points difference in the table would be reasonable, or maybe one score for every extra win or fewer losses achieved. In 2011 Dulwich finished 31 points behind Bognor (10 wins, 11 defeats worse) and won 3–1 at Nyewood Lane. OK, I realise that a six-goal start in a one-off game makes it utterly uncompetitive, but nine months of hard work for the Sussex club counted for almost nothing over one 90-minute match.

The only time a playoff (involving only teams at the top of a table – or those only at the bottom) makes any degree of sense is if not every team has an identical schedule, i.e. one, two or four games against every opponent in the division. Rugby Union’s Aviva Premiership playoff – after the 12 teams have played 11 home and 11 away games – is senseless. The best team after 22 games is the champion, irrespective of whether the difference between first and second is one point or 21 points, end of story.

American sport – and Rugby League – is different because not every team has the same schedule. When the Rugby League Super League Magic Weekend is played on 30/31 May, Castleford will have the benefit of the – on-paper – easiest fixture, against Wakefield, whereas Wigan will have the toughest against Leeds. Therefore, the 12 teams will play 23 League games, with a different team played 3 times.

My only other concession, and this going back to winning games being the only really important factor, is that when teams are level on points, I accept a playoff – only between those on that points-total – can be acceptable.

We finished this season 20 ahead of Met Police, Thurrock were 19 behind Harlow Town and Folkestone had 17 points in hand on Whyteleafe and 15 on Merstham in fourth. Both Harlow and Folkestone missed out on promotion; I desperately hope Hendon don’t complete a hat-trick.