On Monday afternoon the Premier League announced that it’s in discussion with all 20 teams on the possibility of a 4-team play-off for the final Champions League spot. The Premier League see this as opportunity to make the league more competitive, as 5 of the last 6 seasons have seen the so called ‘big four’ finish in the Champions League places.
In principle, teams such as Tottenham, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Everton have the opportunity to get the coveted prize in an identical system to the Football League. There are some good arguments to have this system, it keeps mid-table, end of season matches competitive and not just standard ‘dead-rubbers’ and will without doubt create fantastic drama that Sky and ESPN will love to their heart’s content. But this smells like another opportunity for the Premier League to generate income similar to the ‘39th game’ after the NFL success of their International Series.
Other potential problems will be that if a team outside of the ‘big four’ fails to qualify for the Champions League proper could affect England getting fewer berths for future seasons. And then there’s the challenge of cramming together space in the season’s calendar for the play-offs – especially in seasons where international tournaments are due to take place, thus starting the club vs. country debate again!!
The repercussions could also further undermine struggling cup competitions – especially the FA Cup, where teams may start resting players for semi finals and cup finals because they have a chance of finishing in a play-off spot and getting Champions League football.
Most worrying of all would be again the cost of these games being trickled down to the hardened football fan that follow their team all season long. Its great to see that the Premier League are making efforts to further enhance the entertainment of the league but this is simply ridiculous idea and would serve to further increase the large revenue the Premier League already generates.
If 14 of the 20 teams agree, this could be in place for three to four years time (after the end of the new TV deal), let’s hope sense prevails otherwise what would be next? A play-off for the league title? Or even relegation?