As the season draws to a close, teams up and down the country are getting ready with anticipation, or perhaps dread, that their teams will be involved in the SPFL promotion/relegation play-offs.
Since the 2005-06 season, teams in what are now the Championship, League One and League Two have been involved in play-offs to decide which teams should move leagues – and in recent years new play-offs have been introduced to include the Premiership and the regional leagues below our senior tiers.
Rather incredibly, 35 different teams have taken part in at least one of the league play-offs, with the only teams avoiding them (so far) being: Aberdeen, Celtic, Dundee, Dundee United, Hearts, Inverness CT, Ross County, St Johnstone and St Mirren.
Here I’ve tried to break down the results of the separate play-offs since their current inception to show how league position affects which teams end up as winners, and how different teams have fared over the years.
|2014-15||Motherwell||Rangers||Hibernian||Queen of the South|
|2013-14||Hamilton||Hibernian||Falkirk||Queen of the South|
While we’ve only had three Premiership play-offs so far, we can see that the more staggered format of them has had an effect on how league positions affect who progresses.
The Premiership team has triumphed in 2 of 3 finals, with Motherwell and Kilmarnock seeing off challenges from Rangers and Falkirk respectively. The team finishing second in the Championship has a mixed record, but only once fallen to a team finishing lower in the league. The 4th placed team has never gone further than the first stage.
|11th – Prem||2 (67%)||1 (33%)|
|2nd – C’ship||1 (33%)||1 (33%)||1 (33%)|
|3rd – C’ship||0||1 (33%)||2 (67%)||0|
|4th – C’ship||0||0||0||3 (100%)|
Hibs have participated in every play-off so far (although they will avoid that this season), with Falkirk and Queen of the South appearing twice.
|Queen of the South||2|
Championship / First Division
|2014-15||Alloa Athletic||Forfar Athletic||Brechin City||Stranraer|
|2012-13||Alloa Athletic||Dunfermline||Brechin City||Forfar Athletic|
|2010-11||Ayr United||Brechin City||Cowdenbeath||Forfar Athletic|
|2009-10||Cowdenbeath||Brechin City||Airdrieonians||Alloa Athletic|
|2008-09||Ayr United||Airdrieonians||Brechin City||Peterhead|
|2007-08||Clyde||Airdrieonians||Raith Rovers||Alloa Athletic|
|2006-07||Stirling Albion||Airdrieonians||Brechin City||Raith Rovers|
In these play-offs, the team finishing second in League One or the Second Division, as it was, have been easily the most successful – gaining promotion in 5 of 11 seasons (45% of the time).
Just once has a team finishing 4th in the lower league been promoted, which happened in the play-offs’ inaugural year of 2005-06 when Partick Thistle triumphed over Stranraer before beating Peterhead on penalties to climb back up.
|9th – C’ship||3 (27%)||3 (27%)||5 (45%)|
|2nd – Lg 1||5 (45%)||2 (18%)||4 (36%)|
|3rd – Lg 1||2 (18%)||2 (18%)||7 (64%)|
|4th – Lg 1||1 (9%)||4 (36%)||6 (55%)|
The most successful side in the Championship play-offs have been Ayr United, winning three of their five campaigns. Airdrie have also featured in five play-offs, but have never been able to get the Championship spot despite reaching the final four times.
The team with the worst record in the play-offs, though, are Brechin City – appearing in 6 of 11 seasons without a single victorious run.
Clyde, Stirling Albion, Dumbarton and Partick Thistle all triumphed in their only appearance in the play-offs.
League One / Second Division
|2015-16||Queen’s Park||Clyde||Elgin City||Cowdenbeath|
|2014-15||Stenhousemuir||Queen’s Park||Arbroath||East Fife|
|2013-14||Stirling Albion||East Fife||Annan Athletic||Clyde|
|2012-13||East Fife||Peterhead||Berwick Rangers||Queen’s Park|
|2011-12||Albion Rovers||Stranraer||Elgin City||Queen’s Park|
|2010-11||Albion Rovers||Annan Athletic||Alloa Athletic||Queen’s Park|
|2009-10||Forfar Athletic||Arbroath||East Stirling||Queen’s Park|
|2008-09||Stenhousemuir||Cowdenbeath||East Stirling||Queen’s Park|
|2006-07||Queen’s Park||East Fife||Arbroath||Stranraer|
|2005-06||Alloa Athletic||Berwick Rangers||Arbroath||Stenhousemuir|
These play-offs have proved to be far more unpredictable, with a more even spread of winners across the different positions. The team facing relegation has been successful in 4 out of 11 seasons (36% of the time), but interestingly the team finishing 4th in the lower league has been promoted once more than for those finishing 2nd or 3rd.
|9th – Lg 1||4 (36%)||2 (18%)||5 (45%)|
|2nd – Lg 2||2 (18%)||5 (45%)||4 (16%)|
|3rd – Lg 2||2 (18%)||2 (18%)||7 (64%)|
|4th – Lg 2||3 (27%)||2 (18%)||6 (55%)|
Queen’s Park are the team that are most associated with the League One play-offs, with 8 appearances in 11 seasons. However, they’ve also been underachievers – having only gained League One status through them twice – with a five year streak of elimination in the semi-finals between 2009 and 2013.
Albion Rovers have won both their League One play-offs, with Forfar Athletic and Stirling Albion both being promoted in their solitary campaigns as well.
League Two / Pyramid
|2015-16||Edinburgh City||East Stirling||Cove Rangers|
|2014-15||Montrose||Brora Rangers||Edinburgh City|
There have only been two play-offs so far to decide the fate of the lowest-ranked team in senior football, with one win for the League Two side and one win for the regional league representative.
There’s also a symmetry in the teams representing the regional leagues, with Brora Rangers of the Highland League being involved in the first play-off final and Edinburgh City of the Lowland League being the successful team in last year’s play-off.
|10th – Lg 2||1||1|
So far, although it’s only been two years, only Edinburgh City have participated more than once in the play-offs.
I’ll do my best to keep this post up to date each season with the latest results, as I do with my Scottish League Champions Without the Old Firm post.