1990 Football League play-offs

Football League play-offs
Season 1989–90
Champions Swindon Town
(Second Division)
Notts County
(Third Division)
Cambridge United
(Fourth Division)
Matches played 15
Goals scored 28 (1.87 per match)
Biggest home win Chesterfield 4–0 Stockport
(Fourth Division)
Biggest away win N'castle 0–2 Sunderland
(Second Division)
Stockport 0–2 Chesterfield
(Fourth Division)
Maidstone 0–2 Cambridge
(Fourth Division)
Highest scoring Chesterfield 4–0 Stockport
(4 goals)
Highest attendance 72,873 – Sunderland v Swindon
(Second Division final)
Lowest attendance 5,538 – Maidstone v Cambridge
(Fourth Division semi-final)
Average attendance 19,433

The Football League play-offs for the 1989–90 season were held in May 1990, with the finals taking place at Wembley Stadium. The play-off semi-finals were also played over two legs and were contested by the teams who finished in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place in the Football League Second Division, the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th placed teams in the Football League Third Division and the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place teams in the Football League Fourth Division table. The winners of the semi-finals progressed through to the finals, with the winner of these matches gaining promotion for the following season. The 1990 play-offs finals were the first to be played at Wembley Stadium.


The Football League play-offs have been held every year since 1987. They take place for each division following the conclusion of the regular season and are contested by the four clubs finishing below the automatic promotion places. For the first three seasons the final was played over two legs but this was changed to a single match at Wembley Stadium from 1990.

Second Division

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3Newcastle United 462214108055+2580
4Swindon Town 462014127959+2074
5Blackburn Rovers 461917107459+1574
6Sunderland 462014127064+674


First leg

13 May 1990
Sunderland 0–0 Newcastle United
Roker Park, Sunderland
Attendance: 26,641
Referee: Vic Callow

Second leg

Sunderland won 2–0 on aggregate.

16 May 1990
Swindon Town 2–1 Blackburn Rovers
County Ground, Swindon
Attendance: 12,416
Referee: John Martin

Swindon Town won 4–2 on aggregate.


28 May 1990
Sunderland 0–1 Swindon Town
Bennett  25' (o.g.)
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 72,873
Referee: John Martin


Although they won the promotion play-offs, Swindon Town did not compete in the First Division during the following season. During the 1989–90 season the club was charged with 36 breaches of Football League regulations – 35 of which related to illegal payments made to players between 1985 and 1989.

A hearing to decide the club's fate was scheduled for 4 May – before the play-offs began – but this was postponed on legal advice just days before it was due when Swindon chairman Brian Hillier, club accountant Vince Farrar and former team manager Lou Macari were charged by police for "intent to defraud Inland Revenue by making payments without deducting tax or NI". (In July 1992 both Hillier and Farrar were found guilty of these charges, while Macari was cleared).

Hillier and Macari had already been punished by the FA in February 1990 for their involvement in a £6,500 bet being placed on Swindon losing to Newcastle United in a tie during the 1987–88 FA Cup. The bet was successful and netted £4,000 winnings. As this activity ran counter to FA rules that forbid any bets by club officials or players on their own team, both were found guilty. Hillier was given a six-month suspension from football, but after he (unsuccessfully) appealed, the FA increased it to three years. Macari was fined £1,000 (upheld after his own appeal), and Swindon Town given a £7,500 fine.

At a Football League hearing on 7 June, Swindon pleaded guilty to all 36 charges against them and admitted a further twenty. The league decreed that the club would be denied promotion and instead demoted to the Third Division. Six days later, it was announced that losing play-off finalists Sunderland would be instead promoted to the First Division. This was controversial as Newcastle felt that as they had finished third, three places above bitter rivals Sunderland, they should have been promoted instead. The FA's decision stood and Sunderland were promoted.

Swindon launched a High Court appeal against the Football League's double demotion, claiming it to be "harsh, oppressive and disproportionate to previous penalties". However, within days they dropped this action and instead appealed directly to the FA. On 2 July an FA Appeal Panel reduced the punishment to the club simply remaining in the Second Division; Tranmere Rovers – the losing play-off finalists in the Third Division – who were to have replaced Swindon in the second level were therefore denied promotion.

Third Division

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3Notts County 46251297353+2087
4Tranmere Rovers 462311128649+3780
5Bury 462111147049+2174
6Bolton Wanderers 461815135948+1169


First leg

13 May 1990
Bury 0–0 Tranmere Rovers
Gigg Lane, Bury
Attendance: 7,019
Second leg

16 May 1990
Tranmere Rovers 2–0 Bury
Prenton Park, Birkenhead
Attendance: 10,343

Tranmere Rovers won 2–0 on aggregate.

Notts County won 3–1 on aggregate.


27 May 1990
Notts County 2–0 Tranmere Rovers
Johnson  30'
Short  62'
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 29,252
Referee: Roger Milford

Fourth Division

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
4Stockport County 462111146862+674
5Maidstone United 46227177761+1673
6Cambridge United 462110157666+1073
7Chesterfield 461914136350+1371


First leg

Second leg

Chesterfield won 6–0 on aggregate.

16 May 1990
Maidstone United 0–2 (a.e.t.) Cambridge United
Cheetham  (pen.)
Watling Street, Dartford
Attendance: 5,538

Cambridge United won 3–1 on aggregate.


26 May 1990
Cambridge United 1–0 Chesterfield
Dublin  77'
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 26,404
Referee: George Courtney

External links

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