Are the playoffs a poisoned chalice?

Every fan of every team wants to see their side succeed. If winning the league is not possible then going up via the playoffs is the preferred method for most fans. However, as the old cliche goes, for there to be winners, there must be losers.

So what comes of the losers? While the other side celebrates what can the losing fans look forward too? Do sides go again or is further failure to be endured? The danger of losing the playoffs is all your key players will leave to play at a higher level.

The stats show that of the 84 sides that have lost playoff finals, 20 (24%) have gone on to get promoted the following season. 8 won their respective league while 6 gained promotion and 6 won the following seasons playoffs. On the other side of the coin 8 sides (21%) went on to get relegated.

But the league you are in makes a difference.

In what is now the Championship 7 sides (25%) have gone on to get promoted (4 won the league and 3 won the playoffs). A further 6 sides (21%) went on to achieve a playoff place. 8 more went on to finish in the top half of the table. Only 7 sides (26%) finished bottom half. 2 of those went on to get relegated with only Leeds finishing bottom the year after losing a playoff final. In fairness to them that was after taking a points deduction as well.

Statistically, the average finish position is 8th so Middlesborough fans should feel optimistic about the rest of this season.

Into what is now League 1. Last season Leyton Orient went from losing the playoff final to getting relegated and Swindon have started in similar vein after a shocking run has seem them camped in the relegation zone.

So do the stats give The Robins fans reason to be cheerful?

Three of the last five losing finalists have gone on to finish in the playoffs or higher, however the other two have been relegated.

Overall in the third tier 29% of sides have gained promotion the season after losing the playoff final. Only one side won the league, four gained automatic promotion while three won the playoffs. Five more sides achieved a playoff place with a further five finishing top half meaning 65% of sides finish in the top half.

What will be a concern for Swindon fans is you are more likely to be relegated from the third tier than either division above or below. 35% of sides finish bottom half, six of those have been relegated (two of those as bottom – Swindon already being one).

The average finish in the third tier for the side that lost the previous playoff final is 10th – a position most Swindon fans would snap your hand off for right now.

Into the third tier and there is both good and bad news. Wycombe fans will be pleased to know no side has EVER been relegated the season after losing the playoff final. The bad news is fewer sides than the other divisions get promoted, only 18% of sides gain promotion. Three won the league, two won promotion but interestingly no side has gone on to win the playoffs.

In terms of final position it is a straight 50/50 split in terms of top half or bottom. The average final position is 11th.

So Middlesborough fans can be confident, Wycombe fans indifferent and Swindon fans understandably concerned, but for those who do not like stats – there is always blind faith and belief.


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