The agony & ecstasy of the play off finals. A force for good or plain wrong?

The agony & ecstasy of the play off finals. A force for good or plain wrong?

crying female fan
I’m old school. I have been against the play offs from inception and I have not changed my mind since. No matter that my team once got promoted via them. They are wrong. Plain wrong.

They were conjured up in order to make money. You were told they would be for your benefit. I wonder if the supporters of Leyton Orient and Derby County feel that way today.

The sales spiel was that the play offs would “keep the season alive.” And so it does. But to what end. So that teams who performed worse than others are promoted? That’s like working in an office and seeing a colleague who has failed at their job be promoted above you. And haven’t we all experienced that in our working lives?


The play offs now exist in order to help pay down the vast debt that is Wembley. A debt that will outlive you, me and our children.

You’ve all fallen for the play offs. The neutrals among you. Those who love to see a shoot out – just so long as it’s not squeaky bum time for you personally. The play offs are here to stay. Those in charge of running the game will see to that. And, of course, there will continue to be rows and rows of empty seats when they are.

The corporate brigade, who bought a slice of Wembley in advance of its rebuild, aren’t interested in Leyton Orient v Rotherham or Fleetwood v Burton. Based on a last weekend, they’re not altogether bothered about the ‘winner takes all’ Championship play off.

Or even the FA Cup final. What a sad state of affairs.

wembley orient fans empty otherwise

There must be seats at Wembley that have yet to meet the posterior that bought them.

I felt for the supporters of Derby County and Leyton Orient. What is the point of doing so well all season, finishing in a higher position than your opponent, if it counts for nothing?

A football club I know of old, Queens Park Rangers, owe the well travelled Bobby Zamora a huge debt. His late, late goal – QPR’s only shot on target in 90 minutes – ensures a return to the promised land of the Premier League. That one goal will save the club financially.

QPR breached the new Financial Fair Play regulations. Under FFP rules a club is permitted to have losses of no more than £8 million. Rangers lost £65.4 million. Close!

In the season that they were relegated from the Premier League, the wage bill at Loftus Road was £68 million. Take a breath and read that again. The likes of Manchester City and Chelsea can afford to operate in such a spendthrift manner. QPR cannot.

The likeable club owner is Tony Fernandes, a decent man. He has injected millions and millions of pounds into QPR. When Zamora scored the goal with seconds remaining, Fernandes will have breathed a huge sigh of relief.

In March the last financial results revealed a total debt of £177 million, of which £115 was owed to the company owned by Fernandes. He came into club ownership saying he would be “prudent” when it came to player recruitment, transfer fees and wages. Bless him. He’s got caught up in the excitement of owning a football club.


Will Tony Fernandes splash the cash again and recruit the likes of Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand?

Promotion back to the Premier League guarantees that they will not face a transfer embargo from 2015. The only punishment the club faces now is a fine likely to be between £30 and £35 million. Fernandes will take that on the chin.

For once a player carries Tony Fernandes on his back ( Joey Barton) rather than the other way around.

For once a player (Joey Barton) carries Tony Fernandes on his back rather than the other way around.

After 46 matches Derby County finished 5 points ahead of QPR. Yet they miss out on promotion. How is rewarding the loser fair?

Some of the players who were kept on by Harry Redknapp after QPR exited the Premier League did not deliver for the club during the season. Still on Premier League wages, they took advantage of the kindness and generosity of the club owner and they coasted along. Judged on performance over the season, QPR are fortunate to be promoted. Derby County can count themselves to be very unlucky.

As can Leyton Orient. Their play off final summed up their season as a whole. For so long they were in the lead. Top of the table and unbeaten for ages from the start of the past season. Like all clubs, they had a blip. They regrettably found themselves taking part in the Russian roulette called the play offs. True, come the final day of the season there was little between Orient and Rotherham United. 12 goals.

But, to my mind at least, Leyton Orient should have been promoted. They finished in third place and with a better goal difference than Rotherham.

They have only themselves to blame for losing the play off final. They led Rotherham 2-0 at half time. They even led in the penalty shoot out. But they blew it. Rotherham United were promoted for the second consecutive season under a manager who, judging by social media, is disliked by every football fan whose club he has not managed.


Steve Evans may be a tax dodger. He may be the footballing equivalent of Mr. Blobby. But he clearly knows how to motivate footballers.

As does his opposite number yesterday, the so much more likeable Russell Slade. He has worked wonders for the O’s. That despite the fact that the high profile owner of Leyton Orient, Barry Hearn, has short arms and deep pockets. Had he laid out proper money for a couple of good quality players last January, when Russell Slade needed help, Leyton Orient would have been promoted automatically. That’s my belief.

But from day one at Brisbane Road, Hearn made clear his financial approach to running a football club: “I’m a businessman. I’m not a philanthropist.” I suspect that, for all his protestations this morning, Barry Hearn is probably a little relieved Leyton Orient didn’t go up. I’ve known many a Chairman like that. I even knew one who sacked his manager because, against his express wishes, he did take the club in question up to a higher league!

Leyton Orient v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One Playoff Final

As for what is now the second football club in Sheffield, I’d expect Rotherham to stay up and cement their place in the Championship.

They have the financial backing to do so. They now play at the New York stadium which, despite it’s Sheffield post code address, feels more like home to the loyal Rotherham fans than their previous temporary home of the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield.

Times have changed at Rotherham United. As a fan, I first went to Rotherham in the seventies. They had one of the worst football grounds it has been my misfortune to pay good money to enter.

In 1980 I found myself filming there for the first time. It was when a flamboyant fake called Anton Johnson claimed he would be the saviour of Rotherham United. Safe to say he wasn’t.

Steve Evans

Steve Evans

As for the play off system itself, please don’t think it was created for your benefit. So that you could spend bank holiday weekends supping beer and watching grown men cry.

The play offs exist for financial reasons. That and allowing supporters of club not involved to participate in a little schadenfreude.

I’m glad Fleetwood Town restored some balance and, having finished one place outside of the automatic promotion places in League 2, won their play off against Burton Albion with the only goal of the game on Bank Holiday Monday.

But I do sympathise with the supporters of Derby County and Leyton Orient. I have no idea what they’re going through.

There but for the grace of footballing Gods go I.


What say you? I’ve heard from one Derby County fan this morning, Phil, who remains in favour of the play offs. Even though his club suffered on Saturday. Let me know your opinion. Are you for or against? Are you old school, like me? Or are you in favour of the play offs? Have your say in the ‘Speak Your Mind’ section below.


  1. AH 6 years ago

    Without the Playoffs, the season would be over by Christmas for most clubs. Look at York City this season. They were dead and buried in the first half of it, only to galvanise, turn things around and force their way into the top 7 by the end. If it were not for the Playoffs, they wouldn’t have had the incentive to fight their way up the league, and give their supporters a reason to pay their hard-earned cash at the turnstile. Many of whom will have bought season tickets with the hope of at least a repeat next time around.

    If the top 3 went up, and sod the rest, football would go into decline, and supporter numbers would dwindle. TV money would be even more focused on the Premiership, and there would be a valid excuse for insane ideas like ‘B teams’ and such like.

    Rotherham United (the only league team in the borough of Rotherham) should be viewed as a beacon for all small clubs and their owners. From League Two to the Championship without a huge budget in successive seasons. Surely fans of Scunthorpe, Chesterfield, Rochdale and Fleetwood will be dreaming of emulating that.

    The so-called big boys, of the football league, have sat on their laurels for far too long. It’s made their supporters bitter when they see smaller clubs do so well. The same supporters who watched the FA Cup final, and took great pleasure in Hull’s defeat, because they could take the higher ground by boasting that their massive club won it, even if it was before they were born. The same supporters who only moaned about level playing fields when Zamora’s shot went in, because QPR played the system, gambled, and made it pay off, and their clubs have an unsettled boardroom with no hope of investment and they secretly wished they could do the same.

    I think your argument against the Playoffs has driven you to attack the teams that won them. More than likely, because your team wasn’t good enough to be in them.

    • Author
      Vern 6 years ago

      Thank you for your comment and well put argument. Up to the last paragraph that is. If you read carefully you will see that I do support a club that HAS won a play off final and I enjoyed that day very much. But I will never believe them to be fair. I am not “attacking” the clubs that won. I wish them and their supporters all the best in their new leagues.

  2. Rotherham fan 6 years ago

    He’s does say it’s in sheffield, he says Sheffield post code which it is.

  3. Glyn 6 years ago

    I am old school, I think, But It depends what you would call old.
    As you have received the views of a Orient fan, allow me to try and offer a balanced opinion. I am
    am a Rotherham fan and I am also a play off advocate. I was also at Wembley on Sunday.

    Ah…. you might be thinking, here is a Miller who supports the play offs simply because they won.

    Well that is simply not the case for the following reasons. We have been through the play off process 3 times having lost TWICE & won the most recent attempt. I thoroughly enjoyed all three occasions however I do agree that it is a much sweeter feeling when you have tasted victory, and the M1 motorway seems to be stretched treble when you have lost in the final.

    By the way, on the first occasion, when we lost, the opposition on that occasion was Leyton Orient. It was not the final, but they went through on penalties at Millmoor and our villain (so to speak) in that game was Andy Roscoe.

    So Leyton Orient have had their day against us, and as they say, what goes around comes around.

    On a final note, Please prepare by doing adequate research before posting articles like this – You clearly have not, as Rotherhams New York Stadium is bang in the centre of Rotherham and no where near Sheffield. From this part of your posting, I can only draw the conclusion that you are a bitter, yet envious supporter of one of the other South Yorkshire (or N.Derbyshire) clubs who are in league 1, Chesterfield – perhaps, as they are extremely bitter & envious.

    • Author
      Vern 6 years ago

      Thank you for your comments Glyn. Duly noted. As for the final line, believe me when I tell you that this supporter of the most successful team in South Yorkshire is not, and never will be envious of you! Good luck next season.

      • Glyn 6 years ago

        Well Verne, Envious or not, (But hey, you clearly are) you seem to have a problem with the Millers having some success, along with a new stadium AND Lets face it, if we had not won at Wembley you would never have bothered posting your views in the first place about the play-offs.

        Furthermore, it was quite obvious that you are supporter of one of the other local sides.
        Oh hang on … you must be a Piggy fan,

        Successful you say ? When ? Never even qualified for the play-offs have you ?

        No wonder you think they should not exist – they are out of your reach, You are never consistent enough over the course of a season to qualify.

        Bitterness indeed !

        • Author
          Vern 6 years ago

          Amused. Wrong again.
          Ye Gods Glyn, if you read the original post you would see I stated I supported a team that had won a play off final.
          So that kind of knocks you “piggy” allegation on the head!
          Dear Glyn. You must really do your research on which is the most successful club in South Yorkshire.
          You’ll get there eventually!
          I understand that, through spending so many years in the lower leagues, you’ll not be familiar with success!!
          I jest.
          And, for the record, a) I most certainly would have posted about the play offs article had Orient won. I began writing the article after the Derby defeat
          and b) I have absolutely no problems with the Millers having success. I have known the club on a work front since the early 80’s and only wish you all the best.
          Being born in West London I have never fallen into the trap of obsessing about parochial rivalries in South Yorkshire.
          And you are welcome to a brand spanking new, soulless stadium of steel.
          I’m old fashioned. I happen to prefer grounds steeped in history and ones that have staged World Cup matches.
          Sincere best wishes for next season.

  4. Author
    Vern 6 years ago

    Thanks to all Rotherham fans for commenting and apologies for the absence of the sentence I wrote about Don Valley Stadium in the original post. I have now corrected my error. I wish you all well in the Championship and I think you’ll do fine while you have Steve Evans as manager. I guess that, should he be poached and go to another club, you could always ask Nigel Farage to be your next manager. After all, he also seems to be very popular in Rotherham!
    As for the play offs, some of us are old enough to remember when you went up or down based on merit over the course of the season. Not a penalty shoot out. I have seen Rotherham both lose a play off game and win a play off final on penalties. They are exciting for neutrals and thrilling for fans of the team that wins but, to my mind, the play offs will never be fair. Good luck.

  5. Anonymous 6 years ago

    What a load of rubbish, never read such a bias, bitter and blatantly wrong article in my life! New York stadium in Sheffield? Lol it’s Rotherham town centre! Has it ever crossed your mind to put the shoe on the other foot? Yeah I felt for Leyton Orient at the weekend, but the excitement of coming back to win was something I’ll never forgot, ever! Probably the same feeling for the QPR fans when that last minute goal went in! There has to be a cut off point and the playoffs keep the season alive for many clubs! Get a grip mate, the plays offs are great

  6. Wayne 6 years ago

    New York Stadium does not dismay any Rotherham fans, nor is it in Sheffield. It’s right in the heart of Rotherham town centre and visible from Millmoor.

    Very poor and sloppy writing there.

    As for the play offs, I’m in favour of them. When they were first introduced, clubs that would have been promoted automatically the year before could have a moan about it, but that was over 25 years ago. Despite your cynicism, they DO keep the season alive for longer for more clubs and everyone is fully aware of the rules before they start. For most of the leagues existence third place wasn’t a promotion place anyway, as only two went up until the 1970s, so could one argue that all the teams that went up automatically in third place before the play offs were invented got an undeserved reward?

    You can moan about anything if you really try 🙂

  7. stumpy 6 years ago

    im sure i went to new york stadiumwe that is in rotherham not sheffield we was playing in don vally stadium that was in sheffield but we been playing in rotherham for the past 2 yrs

  8. Denis Jenkinson 7 years ago

    Your argument might be more convincing if your facts were correct.
    New York Stadium is not in Sheffield, It is very central Rotherham.
    Rotherham United are not the second club in Sheffield, they are the one and only club in Rotherham

  9. Michael Radford 7 years ago

    I’m part with you on the agreement that yes third place should be promoted, but I’m also for the playoffs for four teams that also have tried hard all season Leyton Orient had their chance they stormed the league, and if they cant maintain that push then its not other teams fault .
    what I don’t like is the penalty shoot outs if a game is drawn then lets have a replay, no promotion should be decided on penalties, a penalty is a punishment for fouling an opponent in a goal scoring area not to decide a promotion place, and who needs Wembley . Why not play an home and away leg at each others grounds and let the money go to their own clubs, or play at a chosen ground if their own isn’t big enough for the supporters of both teams

  10. Tom 7 years ago

    If your writing an article, at least get your facts rite. Rotherham’s ground is not in Sheffield but in the heart of Rotherham town centre.

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