What do historical league positions tell us about play-off probabilities?

Sky Bet Championship big guns Aston Villa and Middlesbrough will await their fate in this season’s play-offs, just like lower-league overachievers Shrewsbury and Lincoln.

Here, FP examines the results of the 22 seasons since the current play-off format was introduced in 1995-96 and what they can tell us about this season.

– Finishing in the top play-off place in each division has produced the most promoted teams in 21 years – though none in the last two seasons.

– Eight teams have gone up from third place in the Championship, though fifth place could draw level if Middlesbrough can emulate Huddersfield’s promotion last year.

– Aston Villa will be looking to buck the trend by becoming only the fourth team under the current format to be promoted from fourth place. And they would have to continue to do so – Charlton, QPR and Hull were all relegated the season after achieving that feat.

– League One produces the most balanced picture, with seven third-placed teams promoted and six apiece from fourth and sixth, including Millwall from the lowest spot last year.

– Only three teams have gone up from fifth in the third tier, though, meaning Scunthorpe will have to overcome the historical precedent.

– Fourth place in League Two – where the top three go up automatically – has produced the most promoted sides of any play-off spot in any division with 10.

– Last season’s beaten finalists Exeter therefore appear to be in the best possible spot this time around to go one better – but eight of those 10 came in the first 10 years of the current play-off system, with Fleetwood in 2014 the only occurrence in the last nine years.

– Sixth place in the fourth tier has produced only two promoted teams, fewer than any other position throughout the league. Coventry’s resurgence may have to wait another year.

Overall results

Teams promoted through play-offs (PA)
Teams promoted through play-offs (PA)

All divisions

First slot (third in Championship and League One, fourth in League Two): 25

Second slot (fourth in Championship and League One, fifth in League Two): 13

Third slot (fifth in Championship and League One, sixth in League Two): 12

Fourth slot (sixth in Championship and League One, seventh in League Two): 16


Third 8

Fourth 3

Fifth 7

Sixth 4

League One

Third 7

Fourth 6

Fifth 3

Sixth 6

League Two

Fourth 10

Fifth 4

Sixth 2

Seventh 6

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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