This year’s Championship Play-Offs race and the subsequent tournament promises exhilarating football as an interesting mix of teams are competing for the honour to play in the English top-flight.
Here’s what you need to know to get you up to speed:
In the 1980s, the second tier of the football pyramid was rife with hooliganism and declining attendances. The EFL Championship was consequently restructured in 1985 through ‘the Heathrow Agreement.’ The league’s format was changed and the competing teams were reduced from 22 to 20.
Additionally, the play-offs were added to provide excitement and stakes to the game. The ploy was successful. Subsequently, the attendances increased and hooliganism reduced. The play-off final itself became one of the most valuable football matches in the world.
There’s no prize money involved but the loser of the final receives gate receipts as per tradition (to soften the blow of defeat).
What, How, and When of Championship Play-Offs
The Championship Play-Offs are a series of games in a knock-out format that decide the third and the final team to be promoted to the Premier League.
The playoff tournament comprises two semi-finals (contested over two legs) and a final. Finally, this tournament is contested by teams finishing third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the Championship.
The tournament takes place approximately a week after the regular season. This year, the competition will begin on May 29, 2022. The venue for the final will be the Wembley Stadium in London.
Teams contesting the Championship Play-Offs
Blackburn Rovers, QPR, Huddersfield, West Bromwich-Albion, Stoke City and Middlesbrough are all in contention to qualify for the Championship Play-Offs.
Blackburn Rovers are the favourites to win, provided they don’t qualify through the automatic route. It would be poetic too, if Blackburn Rovers are promoted, as May 2022 marks the decennial anniversary of Blackburn’s relegation.
Only a few points separate all the teams in contention thus, the playoff race is truly heating up. Moreover, with covid throwing a spanner in the mix, positions are truly up for grabs.
Blast From the Past
- Charlton Athletic, Ipswich Town, Oldham Athletic and Leeds United contested the first play-offs. Additionally, Charlton Athletic became the 1st team to win a Championship Play-Offs final.
- For the first three years, the playoff finals were played in two-legged ties.
- Crystal Palace have the record of securing promotion to the Premier League more often than any other team in the playoffs.
- Crystal Palace also remains the team with the highest number of appearances in a play-off final.
- Ipswich Town and Derby County played in the championship playoffs (8) more than any other team.
- Both participated in the playoff final only once, for promotion to the top division.
- Leicester City has reached the playoff finals four times. and won it twice.
“Here’s Hogg… DEENEY!”
The Watford-Leicester game in the 2013 Championship Play-Offs semi-final was the most exciting and electrifying play-off tie in recent memory. The first game was played in the King Power stadium. David Nugent (Leicester) scored the only goal in the game and Leicester led the tie (1-0)
In the second leg, Matěj Vydra (Watford), scored the opening goal and brought parity to the tie. Though David Nugent scored through a header and Leicester again led the tie (2-1). Matěj Vydra played a one-two with Troy Deeney and brought Watford level (2-2). Leicester’s Anthony Knockaert missed an injury-time penalty. Watford then cleared the ball and went full-throttle on the counter-attack immediately, Johnathan Hogg crossed the ball from the right and into Leicester’s penalty area, where the chance was finished by Watford’s talisman Troy Deeney. In a span of 50 seconds, Leicester went from excitement to despair. Watford advanced to the final by winning 3-2 on aggregate.
Ultimately, Watford lost the Championship Play-Offs final against Crystal Palace.