Stephen Halliday: Don’t bank on Premiership clubs approving a level playing field

Ayr United manager Ian McCall strongly disagrees with the current format of the play-offs. Picture: SNS.
Ayr United manager Ian McCall strongly disagrees with the current format of the play-offs. Picture: SNS.
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Ayr United manager Ian McCall didn’t hold back with his assessment of the Premiership play-off format which will continue when his side attempt to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit in their quarter-final away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle today.

Whoever emerges victorious when the final whistle blows at the Caledonian Stadium will face a two-legged semi-final against Dundee United next Tuesday and Friday. It adds up to a punishing schedule of four games in 11 days which McCall branded “pathetic” and “unsporting”.

There’s no doubt that the play-offs for a place in the top flight are imperfect and perhaps in need of some fine-tuning by the SPFL.

They have added some welcome drama to the business end of the season since their introduction in 2013-14 when Hamilton Accies defeated Hibs on penalty kicks in the final. But until last season, when Livingston beat Partick Thistle in the final, that was the only occasion when the club finishing second bottom of the Premiership had been relegated.

Like Accies four years earlier, Livingston finished runners-up in the Championship. None of the teams finishing third and fourth in the Championship, thereby having to negotiate two more fixtures in the play-offs, have ever earned promotion.

In an ideal world, the four teams involved in the play-offs would go directly into the semi-final stage and play the same number of games. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Premiership clubs to lend their unanimous support to that particular notion of sporting integrity.