It seemed that the League Two 2019/20 season was done and dusted.
Back on May 16, all clubs voted to curtail the campaign and let the final positions be sorted out using an unweighted points per game average. The top three would go up automatically and the next four would head into behind-closed-doors play-offs. Port Vale and Bradford City, just missing out, received wide praise for putting the game before themselves.
But the EFL needs to change its regulations to finalise matters and that is still ongoing. Meetings have been postponed or delayed and arguments and discussions in League One could have major significance on the bottom division.
Clubs have been submitting alternative proposals to the EFL’s unweighted PPG idea – and those will now all be put to a vote at a meeting of all 71 clubs which will now take place on Tuesday, June 9.
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And it’s a radical idea from Tranmere Rovers chairman Mark Palios – and one that could have a direct impact on Crewe Alexandra and Vale – which is gathering support.
Palios insists that it is not fair for promotion and relegation to be called with so many games remaining, if a team’s standing is decided by a hair’s breadth. So he has come up with a PPG Plan B that would take into account margin for error.
To cut to the chase – it would see the top nine in League Two head into an expanded play-offs.
He explained: “Applying the margin for error outcome, two other Clubs (Port Vale and Bradford) are included as potential play- off candidates which, results in a maximum of nine clubs eligible for play-offs for three promotion spots, as none of the top three clubs are sufficiently clear of fourth place to be promoted automatically.”
The Tranmere proposal would mean the final standings for any curtailed season would first be calculated using a points per game average.
The tables would then take into account “the statistical average actual margin for error (MFE) over the last three years” to determine the range of statistically likely outcomes for each team.
That MFE figure – the average difference between clubs’ PPG after this stage of the season and after 46 games – apparently equates to between -0.57 per cent per game remaining to +0.66 per cent per game remaining.
The example of Newport County in 2016/17 is cited, with them averaging 0.82 on March 13 and 1.04 by the end.
“But we are proposing using only the average error rate observed across all clubs in all divisions,” say Tranmere. “As such, we are only trying to ascertain through MFE what the likely range of outcomes are, rather than statistical outliers.”
Teams who would be assured of automatic promotion when that is applied would go up, teams in the play-off places would be invited to compete in a play-off tournament.
Teams in the relegation places when MFE is applied would be relegated and teams in the relegation places who could avoid relegation are not relegated.
In this model, Tranmere would stay up in League One and Stevenage would stay up in League Two.
Coventry would also be automatically promoted but Rotherham, Wycombe, Peterborough, Sunderland, Doncaster would join Fleetwood, Oxford and Portsmouth in the play-offs.
Palios said in his proposal document: “With regard to settling the season, both our proposal and the EFL’s use PPG to some extent, despite the fact that we believe “football people” accept that PPG has significant flaws. PPG is a poor predictor of promotions, but an even worse predictor of relegations.
“An eloquent demonstration of this is that three out of the four clubs relegated from League One in season 18/19 would not have been relegated had PPG been applied at the same stage last season.
“Our proposal uses PPG as an initial basis for calculating the tables, in the absence of any other mechanism to settle positions when clubs have completed a different number of fixtures.
“However, our proposal then allows each division to vote on whether to accept that outcome as it stands, or to acknowledge the margin for error inherent in PPG, and apply that margin for error to those clubs wishing to engage in both the promotion and relegation mechanism.
“This identifies those who, through no fault of their own, are being adversely impacted by very marginal decisions which, in an average season, they would be likely to have avoided if the season was played to its conclusion.
“It then ensures that those marginal cases are given the benefit of the doubt, through being included in the play-offs, or not being relegated, as applicable. This would have the effect of increasing the number of clubs involved in the play offs, but by manageable numbers.”
In the mean time, League Two clubs have been preparing for the table to be worked out using the simple points per game formula.
The play-offs would see Cheltenham Town v Northampton Town and Exeter City v Colchester United. Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth would go up automatically.
The EFL has carried out tests for Covid on four clubs this week, with no positive cases.