After going through several message boards it occurred to me that some people thought the current play-off system was unfair. The argument was that the team that finished third may finish only a couple of points off the second place team. However, they could end up playing and possibility being knocked out by a team that squeezed into sixth at the last minute. In some seasons the team finishing third could register in the eighty point mark and the sixth place team may have as few as seventy points. It’s quite clear that over the course of the season the teams in question have had vastly different seasons.
That all being said I would not be in favour of scrapping the play-offs altogether, because they keep the season interesting. Another argument is introducing a knock-out format, so only the very best teams get to contest the play-offs. However, I quite like the fact that a team can seemingly come from nowhere and have a shot at promotion and I would like to keep that element.
Some people would argue that the third place team has an advantage because they typically play the team that finished sixth. However, it is debatable if that is a real advantage, because the team that finished sixth may be the most in-from team in the entire division. For example, look at the Championship this season and you will notice some form teams outside the play-offs like Burnley, Hull and Leicester, and then a team like Nottingham Forest in bad form, but currently occupying a play-off position. It remains to be seen if Forest can hold on, but the point is teams that finish in some of the play-off places may only be in average form, but the team that finishing in sixth could be in great form. Therefore, the team that finished in third could be given the hardest challenge.
What I would propose is putting the team that finished third straight through to the final. This will give them a strong advantage, because they will have more rest time and will only have to win one game to gain promotion. This does create of the problem of how you select one team from the remaining three and I can’t think of a fair way to do that. So I would open up seventh place as an addition play-off position. Now the team that finishes fourth would play seventh and fourth would play against fifth. The winners could then advance to a semi-final and this could either be two legged or played at a neutral ground such as the Emirates or Old Trafford. The winner of that would then advance to play the team that finished third in the play-off grand final at Wembley.
The advantage of this revised system would be a real incentive to really go after third place, but it still gives teams a chance and also offered an extra play-off place over the current system. The team that finished third deserves a clear advantage and this seems the fairest way of doing it.