Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SPL Play-Offs: What If...

In one of the more predictable developments of this Scottish football December, perennial third placers Hearts have backed calls for the top four SPL teams to be involved in a championship play off competition.

I can't figure out the appeal for third placed Hearts at all.

Again, I don't think Dundee United's Stephen Thomspon was being genuine with his proposal. He was using it to get the message across about how unhappy certain clubs are with the SPL/McLeish Report stitch-up of last week.

But, just for fun, I thought I'd see which teams would have benefited from a top four play off over the 12 years of the SPL. Unsurprisingly Hearts come out on top.

I've estimated earnings based on an equitable four way split of crowd attendances from the three games totalling four million pounds. I still award all championships to either Celtic or Rangers as no team has beaten either side of the Old Firm in a Scottish Cup semi final in the same year that they have finished third or fourth in the SPL.

The most risible reaction to Thompson's plan is that it would result in more teams winning the championship. It almost certainly wouldn't, given the Old Firms dominance of all three of our national trophies.

Only Hearts and Dundee United have finished in the top four of the SPL and won the Scottish Cup in the same year, neither of them playing the Old Firm in the semi finals or final. So it's not a great leap to imagine that play offs over the last 12 years would have resulted in the same two sides winning the championship.

Here's the list:
Hearts 6 top 4 finishes = £6 million
Aberdeen 5 top 4 finishes = £5 million
Hibs 4 top 4 finishes = £4 million
Kilmarnock 3 top 4 finishes = £3 million
Motherwell 2 top 4 finishes = £2 million
Dunfermline, St Johnstone, Dundee United, Livingston 1 top 4 finish = £1 million each

Now, again, this is all hypothetical. But what a difference this money - even based on my simpleton accounting - would have made to these clubs.

Interesting to see that Thompson's Dundee United would only have benefited once in the 12 years of SPL football.

As for a gap closing device to reel in the Old Firm? Doesn't work as both would have earned at least twice what any other had managed.

* Quick bit of research after a question on Twitter. I think I've checked right back to the Second World War and the only time another side has won the Scottish Cup after the Old Firm have been kept apart in the semi-finals is Aberdeen in 1983.

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