How Bonkers’ Belgian play-off model could give Sunderland a chance to win a promotion


The immediate future of Sunderland has been plunged into chaos as the Ligue 1 season is likely to be abandoned.

According to The Athletic, the Football League will tell third and fourth tier clubs that they will not be able to complete their remaining matches.

It remains to be seen what that means for the Black Cats, who were seventh in the standings when football was suspended on March 13.

It is understood that there are a number of proposals on the table to help clubs finish the season, but the preferred points-per-game model would see Sunderland miss the promotion after playing at least one more match than the six sides above them. .

However, there is another method that would give hope to the men of Phil Parkinson, the Belgian playoff system on the left field.

The Belgian top flight, the Jupiler Pro League, uses a play-off system in the last months of the season to decide on big problems, but that hardly resembles what we have in Football League.

It basically breaks down the season into two phases. First, the 16 clubs play a standard list of games at home and away.

At this point, things start all over again with each team seeing their points cut in half and rounded up to the nearest whole number. The league is then divided into different sections; a league match between the top six, a Europa League match between the seventh to fifteenth teams, with the bottom team (16th) relegated.

The top six then play 10 more games against each other, both at home and away. After that, whoever leads the standings is declared champion, while the finalist and third place team go to the Champions League and the Europa League respectively.

Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson.
Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson.

Meanwhile, the Europa League qualifiers are subdivided into two groups of six teams. The winner of each group then meets in the semi-finals, before facing the team that finished fourth in the Championship in the final. The winner qualifies for the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

Yes, you read that right, they really designed such a devilishly elaborate system just to determine who will qualify for these July qualifications.

In practice, Antwerp finished fourth last season, then returned two goals behind to beat Charleroi 3-2 to go to the Europa League.

But they failed to enter the competition proper after losing more than two legs against AZ Alkmaar, after defeating Viktoria Plzen in the previous round. One cannot imagine that they will make a DVD of this cut.

It would take a brave president to try to convince the rest of Ligue 1 to give it a try, but it’s one that Stewart Donald could consider if he wanted to give Sunderland an outside chance at promotion.

In the event that the Football League wanted to complete a truncated mini-league rather than canceling the season, Sunderland would then make the play-off system equivalent.

With 23 teams, League One is considerably larger than the Juniper League, so an equivalent version would include more than six teams in a mini-league playoff.

At the very least, Sunderland would not have to bother thinking about the implications of an equivalent play-off system in the second division of the Europa League and thinking about where to finish in the top three of a play-off league.

But they would have their work cut out for it, being so late. On the halving point system, Sunderland would start with four points to catch up with league leader Coventry.

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