The Premier League is considering the prospect of introducing a play-off system to decide the remaining spot for Europe’s elite club competition.
The current procedure sees the club that finishes in fourth position qualify for the Champions League. However, the new proposal would involve a play-off between the clubs who finish between fourth and seventh.
Media reports suggest that the proposal was enthusiastically supported by the Premier League clubs, apart from the so-called big four: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. In recent years, the top four clubs have been qualifying on merit at the end of each season, reaping in the financial rewards of Champions League.
Although ridiculed by Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, the play-off is seen by many as the only way to break the monopoly of the big four. With the creation of more competitive matches, and the opportunity for more clubs to challenge for a greater prize:
Benitez said: “To play three, maybe four fixtures, when you don’t have time with international football – when will you play, how can you play these games and what does it mean for the team that finishes fourth?
“Maybe we can do the same with the teams at the bottom of the table. If you finish fourth maybe you could play with the team who finished third from the bottom.
“Then during the whole season we can play 50 games and we don’t have to rest so that will be fantastic.”
The proposal sounds like a step in the right direction. Let’s face it, why should finishing fourth be seen as any sort of great achievement? Why should they automatically be given the same benefits as the team that wins the league? (Yes I know they still have to go through qualifying.)
Apart from the undeniable talent and form of Wayne Rooney, the Premiership has gone stale. There are far too many dead-games, as managers are too afraid to lose. Come the end of the season, if teams are genuinely fighting for seventh place, as that gets them into the play-offs, then it opens up a plethora of games that actually become meaningful.
Yes, the whole point of a divisional-based system is that the teams end up on the correct order over the course of the whole season. However, it would be fantastic entertainment to see some of the top Premier League clubs sweating on a play-off that really mattered.
In the 2005-06 season, the Dutch Eredivise league implemented a play-off system for the clubs that finished between second and ninth place. The idea was eventually discarded after the 2007-08 season, when FC Twente beat Ajax 2-1. The reason behind the abandonment was down to the greater risk of crowd trouble at such important matches.
With the play-off proposal already seeming to have enough support to suggest it could gain the necessary 14-6 majority to be put into action, it might not be long before we see the likes of Fulham v Barcelona or even AC Milan v Birmingham City.
Ultimately, the football league play-offs are one of the most exciting and dramatic competitions in the world, so why not make: ‘best league in the world,’ even better?
Written By Joe Questier