The Football League play-offs could be expanded to six clubs in a revolutionary new plan that would hand a greater advantage to teams who just miss out on promotion.
Reading would be in a better position to repeat Birmingham's feat
The play-off system, already generally regarded as successful, would be extended to six teams rather than the present four.
But it would offer the greatest incentive to the team that finished in third place in Division One and Two, and fourth in the Third Division.
Crystal Palace chief executive Phil Alexander is the man behind the idea, which has already been discussed by the Football League's board and will be put to the League's 72 clubs in April.
This proposal would also give teams whose play-off place is probably secure the incentive to finish as high as possible
Crystal Palace chief executive Phil Alexander
If the forward-thinking proposal, which would do away with home and away legs, receives a positive response, it will then be voted on at the League's annual meeting in the summer.
If approved it could be implemented in time for the 2003-04 season.
How the proposal would work:
- Two quarter-finals which would see the eighth-placed team visiting the fifth-placed team, and the seventh-placed team travelling to the team that finished sixth.
- In the case of Division Three from which three teams are promoted, the ninth-placed team would play the sixth-placed team, and the eighth-placed team would travel to the team in seventh spot.
- The winners of those two ties would then visit the homes of the fourth and third-placed teams respectively, (or fourth and fifth in Division Three) in a one-off semi-final.
- The two successful teams would contest the final as in previous years.
Using this season's present positions in Division One, third-placed Reading and fourth-placed Nottingham Forest would have the advantage.
They would just have to play one game at home for the right to reach the final, whereas the other teams would have to play two tough games in the space of four days to make it to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
The new proposal would also overcome the play-offs' only downside which sees the team who just misses out on promotion having to play the same number of games as the team who finished sixth.
And Alexander's idea keeps alive the season for far more teams.
"It has always concerned me that teams who just miss out on promotion get no real advantage," said Alexander.
"This proposal would also give teams whose play-off place is probably secure the incentive to finish as high as possible, rather than consolidate their position until May."