As the EFL suits log onto their Zoom calls to sort out how best to end the ‘current’ season, Tranmere have put their own plan into the frame. And it’s a plan that could help us out too – before any Rovers fans think that we’re poo-poohing it. The idea is going under a rather grand title: “A proposal for an equitable end to the EFL season in a time of crisis“. But this ultimately means “our idea for sorting out this mess because we’re getting nowhere fast“.
The Tranmere Plan: What is it? How does it help us?
If a division (let’s say, hmm, League Two) decides to bring the curtain down on its season with games still left to play, this is when the Tranmere plan would come into effect. Now, it still uses that now-revered concept of Points Per Game (PPG). Hey – it’s gonna be in the eventual solution no matter what. So, you’re just going to have to get used to it. But this is where Rovers are going with their thinking:
- Work out the league table using pure, unadulterated PPG
- Apply a “statistical average actual margin for error” from the last three years, which is (apparently) +6.3% or -5.45%
- Send up the teams who sit in the automatic promotion spots after that
- Invite the teams in the next four spots to get together for some playoffs
- Send down teams only if they fell outside that margin of error
We’re no good at maths. So, we’re trying to get our head around the Tranmere plan at the necessary speed to stay ahead of you. After all, we still think APR is nothing more than an abbreviation of April. But the Wirral club do set out what this all means. For us, it could means not being relegated – if we’ve done our sums right. And there’s a chance we might not have. We always did like writing more.
No doubt the clever opposition fans will be rushing to point out this changes nowt for us – and fair enough if that’s the case.
How do Tranmere justify their proposal?
By screeching “INTEGRITY” and insisting that PPG is fine for sending clubs up and down, the EFL is likely to send us back to the Conference. It also means relegation for Tranmere. Yes – the Tranmere plan does have a whiff of self-interest. But the case that Rovers are making is pretty watertight. Nothing, as it stands, is set in stone in any of the three divisions. To be fair, though, we have a points deduction to thank for that.
Rovers put a lot of weight behind their argument. We ain’t repeating everything they put in their statement. Go read it for yourself in your own time. But we did cherry-pick the biggest points. If League One ended at the same point last season, for example, four teams would have gone down on PPG; three of which stayed in the division after playing out the games left on their card – including AFC Wimbledon.
The Dons were 12(!) points adrift at the bottom. That’s more than we’ve ever been.
Looking back across the last three years, the Tranmere plan is based on a margin of error from what actually happened. This includes +25.9% from when Newport County defied the odds to stay up in 2016-7. But it what it shows is that PPG is useless at predicting who will finish in the relegation places. Tranmere were more diplomatic, calling it a “distinctly worse predictor”. The potential for inconsistency at the bottom is far greater, you see.
And then there’s the issue of the playoffs.
The Tranmere plan is one idea for settling the Football League season. But it also ropes in the National League with one other point that Rovers are making. Three points from safety with one game in hand, Rovers can see survival. And they reckon their chances of staying in League One are 50:50. For teams in the playoffs, the odds of promotion are one-in-four – assuming that you give all four sides an equal shout of going up.
But it now seems that clubs with a greater chance of getting to where they want to be (i.e. survival) can’t take it. Meanwhile, clubs with a lesser chance stand to benefit. And those in the National League queuing up behind Barrow must surely have even a lower chance of promotion due to how the playoffs are set up. So, why do they get to shape their futures – and we have to accept ours based on maths alone?
What’s the problem with the Tranmere plan?
Is there one? For promotion-chasers, it could mean more teams in the playoffs due to the margin of error. For those at the bottom, it could be the difference between survival and a huge financial hit. The EFL sound willing enough to get rid of the decades-old tradition of home and away fixtures here. So, why not at least give this plan a bash? It could placate those League One sides who want to get back on the pitch.
Ah, sure – who knows. June is on the horizon and it’s all still up in the air. Next, you’ll be telling us that Macclesfield Town are paying wages on time? And which way is Fylde…?