The Super League play offs began last week. Did anyone notice, because it appeared there was no one at them?
It has become obvious the play offs need rethinking. Attendances last weekend were down on what the same fixtures in the regular season attracted. In Wigan’s case, exactly half the number of people attended the play off game compared to the regular season match.
The reason for the sudden avoidance of the pay offs is down to public interest and economic value. The current top-eight format is too complicated for die-hard fans (never mind those new to the sport) to understand.
In addition spectators want value for money in what is troubled economic times. They are not going to get that watching Wigan put 46 points past Catalan.
Let’s face it, the current format is a joke. Eddie Hemmings made a comment during Sunday’s match between Hull FC and Huddersfield which proved the point.
He said: “I don’t think we’re watching the two potential Grand Finalists here today” or words to that effect.
In that case what was the point in being there? Obviously the fans don’t think there’s much point in it otherwise they would have showed up, and that applies to all of last weekend’s games.
A team who finishes mid table shouldn’t really be given the opportunity to string a few wins together and suddenly win the competition. It wouldn’t happen in football (but that’s a different argument for a different day!)
The solution to the problem we have is pretty simple. We reduce the number of teams in the play offs to four, and watch them battle it out in a straight knockout format until we have one winner lifting the Super League trophy aloft at Old Trafford.
The league leaders play the team in fourth place, the runners up host the third placed team. The winners of both games progress to Old Trafford to decide who will be crowned the champions.
Is that too complicated to understand? In addition this format guarantees value for money. Semi finals in any competition have a special aura around them you just don’t get anywhere else. The fans know their team is 80 minutes away from a grand day out, and are prepared to cheer them onto a place in the final.
The proof is in the pudding in terms of supporters getting value for money. Using the current play off system alone, there have been some thrilling semi final matches that have a place at Old Trafford riding on them.
Last season Leeds beat Warrington in a last minute thriller, and St Helens upset Wigan beating the Warriors to a place in the Grand Final. Two years previously St Helens upset the Warriors after a 14-10 win at Knowsley Road.
Using different play off formats there have been some thrilling final eliminator deciders, proving that fans will get value for money when a Grand Final place is up for grabs. Therefore it makes perfect sense to ditch the remaining four play off places, as those clubs are diluting the quality at the business end of the year and only making up the numbers.
Other benefits to this format include shortening the season by two weeks, which will please coaches and players who complain of fatigue after a nine month campaign.
With the international season unlikely to move from its current October-November slot, it will give players a chance to refresh before taking on the Kiwis and Australians.