The TRUTH about the play-offs: late charges, relegation-form winners, 20% chaos

Arguably English football's greatest innovation of the past 30 years, the Football League Play-Offs remain unrivalled for drama. Barring a tweak to the away-goals rule, the format hasn’t changed since 1990 – and why would it? The conditions are perfect for ding-dong battles and those breathtaking moments that punctuate the nerve-shredding tension. Year upon year, they deliver.

But so fine are the margins between success and failure, it’s easy to buy into the notion that there’s no rhyme or reason to who goes up and who stays down. “The play-offs are a lottery”: it’s one of football’s biggest cliches and biggest myths. Yes, chance plays a significant part. But the probabilities are never equal.

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