Can football learn from rugby league's play-offs?
It was another busy weekend of sport, but one of the highlights for me was watching Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington announce his team's opponents for next Friday's Super League play-off semi-final at Headingley Carnegie.http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulfletcher/2009/09/can_football_learn_from_rugby.html#143636
Giving a side the right to pick who they will face in the semis is a new concept from the ever innovative Rugby Football League, keen to increase the intrigue surrounding the re-jigged play-off system that now features eight teams.
Having finished top of the table after the regular season and won their opening play-off game against Hull KR, Leeds were able to select either Catalans Dragons or Wigan Warriors as their adversaries on 2 October.
And they eventually plumped for Catalans, Hetherington dragging out the announcement with all the tease and titillation of a skilled burlesque performer.
It's an interesting decision and one laced with danger. The Dragons may have finished in the eighth and final play-off spot, 16 points adrift of the table-topping Rhinos, but the French side have the wind in their sails.
They secured their place in the top eight with a shock victory at St Helens in the final round of the regular season and have since beaten Wakefield and Huddersfield.
Still, Leeds have ensured that the other semi-final will be a keenly-contested derby between bitter rivals St Helens and Wigan. That, in turn, could mean that, should the defending champions reach the Grand Final at Old Trafford on 10 October, they will come up against a team with less petrol in the tank.
But then again, by selecting Catalans have the Rhinos effectively done all the motivational work for Dragons coach Kevin Walters?
It is an intriguing situation.
It's also an idea that might inject some spice into the Football League play-offs were they to adopt a similar approach.
What about a system that would allow the teams that finished in the highest play-off spot in the Championship, League One and League Two tables to decide which of the three sides below them they would meet in the semi-finals?
Bury finished fourth in League Two last season - the highest placed play-off spot in a division where the top three teams are automatically promoted.
They played - and lost - to Shrewsbury in their semi-final but, given the choice, might have decided instead to take on Rochdale, who finished sixth but had not won in their last six games of the campaign.
Of course, some people are against the play-off format per se and would like to see a return to the old system of promotion.
But the play-offs are here to stay and I think it would make for great entertainment if the team in third was able to choose who they face.
I mean, just imagine how the bellicose Neil Warnock would react if his Crystal Palace team became the chosen opponents.
Haha, that would be funny.