English Championship promotion playoff preview

English Championship promotion play-off: Betting preview

The promotion play-off is called “the richest game in football” as there is so much money involved from being promoted to the Premier League. In the Championship division, the two top teams are automatically promoted while teams placed #3 to #6 enter the play-off. One can imagine the tension and nerves with so much at stake.

This article examines if these high stakes and the importance of the games create some notable trends that could be used to make a profit from betting. Ten years of statistics is examined. The play-off has been going on for much longer, but it is probably not that relevant looking at even older stats. Maybe for another article at another time.

We will also check if the league position is somehow linked to the outcome of the playoff. Is there any advantage being third compared to ending sixth in the league table?

The playoff format

The four teams finishing directly behind the automatic promotion places enter a promotion semi-final. Semifinals are played over two legs, giving each side a home game and an away game. The winners from each semifinal meet in the promotion final, a single match played at a neutral venue.

The winner of the final is, obviously, promoted.

About these statistics

This article covers every promotion playoff from 2008/2009 and up to 2017/2018. Ten years. The two semifinals are always played like this:

  • Semifinal 1 – between the top and bottom team in the playoff zone. The lowest placed team plays at home first.
  • Semifinal 2 – between the two “middle” teams in the playoff zone. The lowest placed team plays at home first.

Please note that ten years of statistics only mean 50 matches in total, 40 semifinals and ten finals. These are not statistics to be trusted with one’s life… be careful with any bets and remember to always bet responsibly.

Semifinal 1, leg 1 statistics

The statistics for the first leg of the semifinal between teams placed #6 and #3, with #6 playing at home:

Last 10 seasonsNumber of gamesPercentageMathematical odds
Home wins440%2.50
Draws440%2.50
Away wins220%5.00
Over 2,5 goals220%5.00
Under 2,5 goals880%1.25
Both teams to score (BTTS) YES550%2.00
Both teams to score (BTTS) NO550%2.00
Home win half time330%3.33
Draw half time550%2.00
Away win half time220%5.00

What can we learn from these numbers?

  • The away team, supposed to be the strongest team with its finishing position of #3 in the league table, only won two out of ten games
  • In general there are little goals in the matches, and eight out of ten ended up with two or less goals. Providing a possible betting opportunity on “under 2,5 goals”
  • 1-1 was the most common result (three times)

Semifinal 1, leg 2 statistics

Here are the stats for the second leg. This time the team placed #3 in the league table plays at home versus #6:

(Remember that the result in leg 1 will affect the result in leg 2. For example, a team winning the first leg with two goals will probably try to defend that lead in leg 2, while the trailing team needs to take bigger risks in their attacking play.)

Last 10 seasonsNumber of gamesPercentageMathematical odds
Home wins880%1.25
Draws110%10.00
Away wins110%10.00
Over 2,5 goals660%1.67
Under 2,5 goals440%2.50
Both teams to score (BTTS) YES660%1.67
Both teams to score (BTTS) NO440%2.50
Home win half time440%2.50
Draw half time660%1.67
Away win half time00%n/a

What can we learn from these numbers?

  • This is where the league position #3 proves something, as a stunning eight out of ten games was won by that team (playing at home). Often with a solid margin as the result 3-1 featured three times, 3-0 once and even 4-1 once.
  • In total, the team placed #3 advanced to the final eight times out of ten.
  • There were lots of more goals in the second leg, with a 6-4 over/under 2,5 goals distribution
  • The away team did not lead a single game at half time
  • The most common half time/full time result was x/1 (draw at half time, home win at full time)
  • None of these ten semifinals went into extra time or a penalty shootout

These numbers indicate that the team placed third is able to show their class in the semifinal and proceed to the final.

Let’s look at the other semifinal!

Semifinal 2, leg 1 statistics

So, the team placed fifth in the league table welcomes the team placed fourth:

Last 10 seasonsNumber of gamesPercentageMathematical odds
Home wins220%5.00
Draws440%2.50
Away wins440%2.50
Over 2,5 goals220%5.00
Under 2,5 goals880%1.25
Both teams to score (BTTS) YES110%10.00
Both teams to score (BTTS) NO990%1.11
Home win half time110%10.00
Draw half time660%1.67
Away win half time330%3.33

What can be learned from this?

  • The home team only won two of these ten matches
  • The draw would have been profitable in hindsight, but with one less draw the profits would be gone
  • There has been very few goals in these matches as eight ended up with less than 2,5 goals, providing a betting opportunity
  • BTTS YES came through only once in ten matches, another betting opportunity right there
  • The typical result was 0-0 (four times). Four of the six victories registered was with the scoreline 1-0 (to either the home or the away team). With four 0-0 and four 1-0, the profit in backing under 1,5 goals would be great

Semifinal 2, leg 2 statistics

Now let’s look at the second leg of semifinal 2, where league position #4 welcomes #5:

(Again, remember that the second leg is affected by what happened in the first leg.)

Last 10 seasonsNumber of gamesPercentageMathematical odds
Home wins110%10.00
Draws440%2.50
Away wins550%2.00
Over 2,5 goals440%2.50
Under 2,5 goals660%1.67
Both teams to score (BTTS) YES440%2.50
Both teams to score (BTTS) NO660%1.67
Home win half time110%10.00
Draw half time440%2.50
Away win half time550%2.00

What does this tell us?

  • Again there is no home advantage as the home team only won once in ten matches, despite finishing higher in the league table than their opponent
  • Four draws from ten matches means that the draw would have been profitable to back, but this could be down to chance
  • No strong trends in the over/under and BTTS statistics
  • The home team failed also at half time, only leading once in ten games
  • Three of the semifinals were tied after two legs and went into extra time, two of those went on to penalties

Statistics for the play-off final

This final is played on a neutral venue, usually Wembley stadium. As mentioned in the introduction, the winner can look forward to a cash injection from playing in Premier League that possibly could shape the whole club’s future. There is so much at stake in these finals.

Here are the statistics from ten years worth of finals. Note that the highest ranked team in the league table is defined as the home team.

Last 10 seasonsNumber of gamesPercentageMathematical odds
Home wins550%2.00
Draws220%5.00
Away wins330%3.33
Over 2,5 goals330%3.33
Under 2,5 goals770%1.43
Both teams to score (BTTS) YES330%3.33
Both teams to score (BTTS) NO770%1.43
Home win half time440%2.50
Draw half time440%2.50
Away win half time220%5.00

What can be learned from the statistics from the last ten finals?

  • The supposedly strongest team based on the league table won five finals in the normal 90 minutes.
  • The supposedly weakest team also won five finals, three after normal time and two more after extra time/penalties
  • There were not that many goals in these games, with seven out of ten ending “under 2,5”. This statistic is a lot stronger in recent years as the last six finals have all ended with under 2,5 goals. Perhaps in tune with the added importance (and money) being put on this game
  • BTTS stats were 3 YES/7 NO. Both this and the under 2,5 are possible bets

What does the league table tell us about team strength going into the playoffs?

Here’s a list of how the teams performed based on their league position:

  • 3rd placed team: Eliminated in 2 out of 10 semifinals. Achieved promotion four times in ten seasons.
  • 4th placed team: Eliminated in 5 out of 10 semifinals. Achieved promotion twice in ten seasons.
  • 5th placed team: Eliminated in 5 out of 10 semifinals. Achieved promotion three times the last ten seasons.
  • 6th placed team: Eliminated in 8 out of 10 semifinals. Achieved promotion once.

Hopefully this was useful. Good luck with the Championship play-offs!

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Lars Dybwad

Content and Social Media Manager

Lars Dybwad has a passion for sports betting and worked for five years as the “betting expert” in Dagbladet, Norway’s second largest newspaper. Dybwad is not a native English speaker and hopes you find his command of the English language charming rather than annoying.