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.
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.
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!
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.
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.