Champions League Play-Off: What's Your Opinion?

The Premier League could soon implement a plan that sees its fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh place finishers contest an end-of-season play-off at Wembley to determine England’s fourth Champions League contestant. At first blush, the plan seems rather appealing as further excitement would be added to season’s end while allowing clubs outside the Big Four the chance to enjoy the financial and athletic splendours of top-flight European competition. Potential downsides include further fixture congestion, dilution of the regular season’s importance, resistance from UEFA and Premier League clubs, and claims that the scheme amounts to an insurance policy should a current member of the Big Four finish outside the top four (we’re looking at you, Liverpool).

Of course, any move by the Premier League to put its fourth Champions League spot up for grabs may be short-lived should English teams fare poorly on the continent going forward as each nation’s allocation of spots is based on continental success. Many long-time supporters will argue that we’ve been headed down this very slippery slope of European dilution since 1992, when the European Cup ceased to be a tournament restricted solely to domestic champions. Personally, I’d like to see only the League Champions and the FA Cup winners guaranteed a place in the Champions League, with any additional spots determined by Wembley play-offs, with the same restrictions applying to other dominant European Leagues (i.e. restricting Spanish access to the La Liga champions, Copa del Rey winners and play-off winners). But what say you? Have at it.

30 thoughts on “Champions League Play-Off: What's Your Opinion?”

  1. I actually don’t like this idea. Hear this scenario:

    I’m a Tottenham fan. Big-time. Let’s say, for the first time since the creation of the Premier League, they finish in the top-4. 4th place. Awesome. We get lots of money, get a leg-up on the ‘traditional top-4 team’ that we managed to displace. We get to compete in Europe’s biggest competition, get the financial rewards of doing so, and can begin to attract the next tier of global talent to our side. One problem: The year we finally manage to crack the top-4, the Premier League has implemented this playoff system. Oh. No. All that hard-work, all that dedication throughout the long season. We qualified fair-and-square just like every 4th place finisher in prior years has done….but our place in the Champions League is lost in a playoff. That would be absolutely devastating, and as mentioned in the article, seems like a safety net for whichever Big-4 club doesn’t finish in 4th. Shades of Liverpool getting in to the Champions League even though Everton finished 4th ahead of them.

    You can apply this same scenario to Aston Villa, and Manchester City this season, or any team which finds itself competing with the Big-4 to break up that illusive Cartel at the top.

    Personally, I am of the opinion that the Champions League should be just that…a league of CHAMPIONS only. However, the competition has long gone away from that and their is no turning back at this point.


    1. What about other seasons when your team finishes in 6th place but still has the ability to make a good run and qualify for the CL?

      Don’t judge your entire opinion of it based on this season alone.

  2. No, no, and again no. If you want playoffs, you get the FA Cup. The team that finishes 4th after 38 games plays in the Champions League. The slippery slope argument goes like this: why not a relegation playoff, and a 1 v. 2 title game?

  3. I think the the fourth place should go to the FA cup winners otherwise what’s the point, the FA cup means nothing anymore and the league cup should have been chucked years ago.

      1. Came to say this.

        Depending on how secure they are in early January, the top 3 still might not play their starters under Three’s scenario. But everyone else sure would, and the FA Cup would be more meaningful.

        And if you want to bring some semblance of meaning back to the League Cup, give a Europa League spot to the highest finisher that doesn’t qualify for the Champions League, be they winner, finalist, semi-finalist or quarter-finalist. Devise a tiebreaker in case, for example, neither semi-finalist qualifies for the Champions League.

    1. not sure about that one, Millwall were beaten by Man United a few years back in the FA Cup final. As a result Millwall got a UEFA cup space.

      if the same rules applied and the winner already had a champions league spot then the FA Cup runnerup could end up in the champions league.

      would millwall vr real madrid be the exhibition of football that the champions league is all about?

  4. I love the assumption, (all over the internet and not just here, to be fair), that this is some sneaky way to benefit Liverpool, simply because they fit the scenario this season.

    In the last four seasons Liverpool have finished 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd.

    Arsenal have finished 4th, 4th, 3rd, 4th

    One season, with about a third still to go determines that Liverpool will be the team slugging it out in the play offs and not Arsenal? Whatever. Liverpool baiting is par for the course it seems.

    Anyway, this is a rubbish idea simply because it is unsustainable. The EPL isn’t guaranteed four spots in the CL in the future, so this would become an irregular fixture, totally dependant on the performance of the “Top 3” in the CL. It would be a mess.

    I don’t favor going back to the old ‘Champion’s only’ format either as that would clearly dilute the quality of the competition. Even as a Liverpool fan who’s team benefitted in the 70’s from having to play European giants like Dynamo Dresden and Crusaders, I wouldn’t go back. Too many fantastic teams would miss out and be replaced by fodder.

    Leave well alone, i say.

  5. This idea is based on assumption that England will always have 4 teams in CL. Which to me borders arrogance. With recent financial woes of EPL teams I would not be surprised if Chelsea and Man City were the only teams that remain competitive in Europe.

    1. Not if the new financial rules come into effect after 2012. UEFA’s new rules would require clubs to break even and spend only what they earn from soccer-related income such as ticket sales and television deals.

      Chelsea and Man City won’t be more competitive in that scenario.

      1. Yes, but this actually strengthens the big-4 even more! They are the only ones getting Champions League football every year, therefore, they are making bag-loads more cash than everyone else. The only way to break into their club is to get bought-out by an insanely rich owner (Man City) and just spend your way into competing. They HAVE to overspend to even reach a level where they can compete. If they are no longer allowed to do this, the Big-4 will only increase the gap on the lesser teams.

        1. I don’t disagree, but I think the “Big 4” advantage, under the new rules, is not simply about CL football and television deals. More than anything, it’s about the merchandising revenue that is generated form a HUGE established, global fan base. Man City simply don’t have enough time to build up that kind of following before the new rules kick in. Chelsea have got a head start, but I think they will suffer too, relative to Liverpool, Man United and to a lesser extent Arsenal.

      2. I don’t see how these rules will help to pay out Man U debts or improve Liverpool financial situation. Chelsea and Man City on the other hand with with huge financial reserves are in much better position to adjust to the new rules. “Break even” is a vague term and there are many creative ways to draw balance sheets. These new measures may lower transfer fees but cash rich clubs will have other means to attract top talent. E.g. Abramovich buying a minority stake in Valencia as part of Villa transfer deal.

        1. It’s not clear yet, how or even if these new rules will deal directly with the issue of sugar-daddy bailouts, but it seems to me that these kinds of cash injections are clearly not derived from “football related income”. The whole point of the regulations is not to eliminate debt, but to eliminate unsustainable debt to income ratios which sees over 50% of European clubs making a loss each year and one in five teams spending at least 120 percent of their revenue annually.

          Manchester City recorded a loss of nearly £100m for year ending May 2009. Chelsea’s was £44.4 m.

          Manchester United and Liverpool on the other hand, posted pre-tax profits of £48.2m and about £10m respectively.

          If this picture continued well beyond 2012, under the new rules City and Chelsea could potentially be barred from the CL. That is why it’s advantageous to the established clubs with massive global revenue streams from football related merchandising.

          Lower transfer fees and wages as a result of these new rules, will also make servicing debt more managable for everyone, but it is the potential and existing revenue streams of the “big” clubs that hands them back the advantage they lost when people like Sheik Mansour and Abramovich came on the scene.

          1. Jerry,

            Utd don’t have an £80m player to sell every year do they, and how much did Liverpool get for Alonso? So think what happens dont just say they are in profit cos quite simply they are not unless you think the way to go is asset striping.

      3. And how are teams such as Liverpool, Arsenal and Utd going to break even? Because, we have now found that Utd’s debt is not as serviceable as first thought i.e. selling a player for £80m And making something like £48.2m profit , no sale and they would be £31m down and that’s with winning the league and getting in the CL final!! The other teams mentioned also have very large debts and need to buy players that they seemingly can’t afford this is a big problem for them with the chasing pack spending big (Spurs, Villa and City) and right among them and battling for a place in the land of milk and honey that is the Champs league.
        I think with this new knowledge that Mr Platini has he may just forget he ever open greedy mouth about his new rule ideas. this little piggy will blow them all away! mark my words.

  6. Dumb? Stoopid?

    Don’t mind me but isn’t Champions League supposed to be about…

    More money for the FA, UEFA, & FIFA. Less for everyone else.


    my 2p


  7. Horrible idea. Nothing can justify MORE fixture congestion. Soccer should always avoid the “American” system of playoffs and keep to simple league format and knockout system for cups. But this all goes against the strong tide called money. There simply is no respect left for tradition players who are over-worked. The end result will be (and already has been) a decline in quality. Shame.

    1. So, I guess you’re not a fan of the promotion play-offs for the Championship, League 1, League 2, Conference Premier, etc.? It’s not like there isn’t play-offs in English football right now.

  8. no I hate the idea. How can you consider a team that finishes 7th a champion?

    Also, the team that wins only wins the right to go into the champions league playoff round not the group stage. so its a play off to decide who goes into the playoff.

  9. I’m a Fulham supporter. Under this new scheme, had it applied last season, we would have made the playoffs. You would think I would be for the change but I’m against it.

    The final champions league spot should be earned for having a fantastic season, not by getting lucky and winning two play off games. I don’t like the play off system in the lower leagues for promotion and I don’t like this either.

  10. Whether we like it or not I think it will go like this, where the 4th CL spot will be a playoff. The bottom line is, football like any sport, is in the entertainment business. The old European cup which I can still remember watching was a true champions trophey as only the champion of their country got to play in it but I wouldn’t want to go back to that, I like the fact that all the best teams get a chance to play, it makes it more entertaining and that is the name of the game. Change happens and it is not always for the worse.

  11. Wouldn’t UEFA/FIFA have to sanction a decision like this? I am skeptical that the EPL could make this change without their ok.
    Either way, I am not a fan of the idea. Makes the season’s results less meaningful and have teams only aiming to make 6th or 7th and then hoping to get lucky in a couple of ‘one-off’ games. The point of the top 4 teams is that over the course of a season, they are the best 4 teams.

  12. Aren’t we forgetting the rest of Europe. Do we really think Spain or Italy will adopt this as well? If not, who cares about making things “more interesting” The League Championship playoff is a joke. Let’s stop trying to “Americanize” our sport.

  13. I’d go either way on this issue; the reality is this, all competitions are the result of an arbitrary decision. MLB only had two divisions from the leagues’ inception, (National League 1876, and the American League, 1901) through the 1968 season. For the 1969 season, baseball introduced divisional play, created a league play-off series, with each league champion proceeding to the World Series. Yes, purists complained bitterly, but the additional revenue and fan interest bloomed over the years. Imagine, today if baseball turned the clock back, and scrapped the divisional and wild card series? Lost revenue, diminishing fan interest as the season enters the late stages, and little suspense in the offering.
    The Premier League is entering a stage where you can guarantee a desire for growth; depending on how you look at this potential play-off system, the game grows in interest and the stranglehold that the so-called ‘big four’ have today, will diminish. Football is a business, right? And the Premier League is a victim of it’s own success; we are all watching, and paying top dollar via satellite and cable subscriber fees. There is a true demand for World Football, and for me, the Football League play-offs are wonderful and produce exciting outcomes. In a league system, consisting of 24 clubs in a single division, the situation demands a boost to stimulate further interest.
    Sooner or later, English football will continue to grow and the league, cup and play-off formulas will expand, or contract, depending on fan interest.

  14. I like the playoffs for the Football League and Football Conference. It gives more teams an opportunity to play meaningful games toward the end of the season. Putting this in place for the 4th Champions League place would be fantastic.

    Also you have to keep in mind, the 4th place team now does not go right into the champions league group stages, as it has to win a playoff with another non-champion. The non-champions who won in this stage were Arsenal, Lyon, Stuttgart, Fiorentina, and Atletico Madrid. Yes, there is good quality there, but could an Everton or a Man City beat those teams? I would say yes they could over two legs.

    Also, consider this… if the 4th place team is so much better than the 5th, 6th or 7th place team, then they should easily win the playoff and go into the champions league.

    1. Anyone can win a one off game or two, but it’s fairly likely that a 5th – 7th placed EPL team with little or no CL experience would get dumped out fairly quickly.

      This wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that the EPL’s 4 spots are dependent on the sustained performance of English teams in the competition. If the ‘play-off’ representative regularly bombs, then we eventually lose that 4th spot.

      What then? A play-off for the 3rd spot? And so on and so forth…

  15. The fourth/last place should go to the winners of the F.A Cup/Copa Itallia/Del Rey etc. It would breathe new life into Cup Football – The football gods will always have more respect for an F.A. Cup winner than someone who finished in 4th.

    I was surprised the EPL had such a discussion as I thought it was down to The FA/UEFA to have the last say who gets what. (Darren, FIFA has no say in such matters)

    One could argue that the CL qualifying spots going from the top 2 to the top four has ironically been a bad thing for the likes of Liverpool/Arsenal, they’ve depended on that fourth spot the way someone living outside their means does on credit cards.

    It has led to complacency and mediocrity, especially for Liverpool.

    So for you LFC supporters – you shouldn’t care either way.

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