The plan is to introduce a play-off system where the teams that finish the season in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh place would all get the chance to qualify for the final round of qualification for the Champions League. Considering that the Premier League is already very competitive, especially in the current battle for fourth place, this would inject even more of an edge, seeing as there has been a domination of the so called ‘big four’ for many years. Incidentally, the idea is believed to have been approved by 16 of the 20 clubs in the league. The ones that have not are the top four themselves, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
So much has been made of fixture congestion and the amount of games, in general, which are played in the English football season that the practicality of the idea will come in to question. Should it be put in to practice, it is said that the format of the play-offs would see the team that finished fourth play the seventh position team and the fifth and sixth would meet each other. The winners of the two matches would meet in a Wembley final.
Freeing up space on the fixture calendar would be done by scrapping all FA Cup replays. The problems are mainly to do with the physical aspect of certain clubs having to play more games at the end of what would already have been a grueling season. Everton manager, David Moyes, voiced his opinion on this matter. He said: “I’m probably slightly in favour, but I could easily be swayed in the argument that we already play 38 games in a season so why play another three or four games at the end when everybody’s knackered and nobody wants any more games? Where are you going to fit it in with all the international games? We’re struggling to fit it in now, so I don’t know how you’d do it.”
Should the new idea be applied in the future then the positive side of it is that four teams would all get the chance to be playing Champions League football the following season. However, within that situation lies the negative part of the proposal. As a season consists of 38 games, along with the domestic cup fixtures and European involvement for some clubs, it could be deemed unfair that the team who finishes fourth after a season of working so hard, does not automatically qualify for the Champions League as the Premier League has been used to. The problem with a play-off idea is that the club that finishes seventh could qualify for the Champions League at the expense of the club that finished fourth.
The fact that, the top four clubs aside, most Premier League club’s chairmen and chief executives have warmed to the idea. A vote of at least 14 clubs to six would be required to apply the change.
So is the proposed change of format a positive step forward in making the Premier League exciting and bridging the current gap between the top four sides and the rest?