The race to determine the third team to get promoted from the Championship to the Premier League took a step closer to be finalized yesterday after Swansea City defeated Nottingham Forest 3-1 to qualify for the Championship Playoff Final. Later today, Cardiff City will host Reading (live on FoxSoccer.tv) in the second leg of the Championship Playoff semi-final (aggregate score, so far, is 0-0). The winner of that match will play Swansea at Wembley Stadium in London on Monday, May 30 (a bank holiday in the United Kingdom and, conveniently, Memorial Day in the United States).
As a soccer fan, I’m hoping that Reading beats Cardiff City to reach the final today. I’m not saying that because I’m a Swansea supporter. But if Cardiff reaches the final, the Championship Playoff Final will cease to become an open and attacking match. It’ll become a fierce derby which, as many of us have witnessed in previous derbies around the world, becomes a very tense and frustrating experience. A derby final becomes less about soccer and more about not making a crucial mistake against your closest rival. For the sake of entertainment, a Swansea against Reading final would be a joy to watch.
Off the pitch, a Swansea against Cardiff final would be a nightmare to police. If Cardiff win today, it’s quite possible that the police may insist that this become a “bubble” final where Swansea and Cardiff supporters can only travel to the ground separately via authorized transport (either trains or buses, carefully separated and heavily policed). However, there wouldn’t be enough trains or buses to take approximately 72,000 fans from South Wales to London, so police may have no option other than patrolling the 200 miles stretch of M4 motorway between Swansea and London, and hoping that few incidents as possible occur. By the way, the animosity between Cardiff and Swansea supporters makes West Ham against Millwall look like a Sunday picnic. Obviously, police are very concerned about an all-Welsh Championship Playoff final.
Whether Swansea will play Reading or Cardiff in the final, the Swans will be confident going into the match that they can get the win necessary to get promoted to the Premier League where they’ll gain around around £90million in TV revenue, sponsorships, increased ticket revenue and more. As a pessimistic Swansea City supporter who was followed the team since 1979, I’m happy just to be in the final. It was only eight years ago when Swansea were at the bottom of the Football League and only one game away from relegation to the Conference. But in that last match of the season, Swansea beat Hull City 4-2 and stayed up. It was fitting then that the footballer who scored the opening goal last night for Swansea against Nottingham Forest was Leon Britton. The diminutive midfielder played in that win against Hull City and was fouled in the area which led to the penalty that opened up Swansea’s tally that day. Boy have times changed.