No place for a 4th place play-off


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?

10 thoughts on “No place for a 4th place play-off”

  1. As I stated in an earlier post of another article, unless the rest of leagues in Europe are willing to do the same it should be a no go….

  2. I don’t like that it would crowd an already over-crowded schedule. I don’t like that it would cheapen the two domestic cup competitions. I do like the added drama at the end of the season to make those spots for the playoff, much like in the lower divisions where getting into the playoffs adds a lot of drama. I don’t see what the formula other leagues use to determine their representatives to the CL has to do with what the PL chooses.

    I would rather see the winner or runner-up of the cup competitions be placed automatically into the CL as the third and fourth spot that have to go through qualification. Rarely would this be a team outside of the traditional powers and it would become more rare as the added value would mean that the Big Four would take it more seriously. No more playing the kids if you are Wenger. This could also mean that it’s possible third and fourth place finishers in the league would go into the Europa League if they failed to win the cup. The competition for second would be much more dramatic among the Big Four. No more playing ugly defensive football in the big matchups in an attempt to avoid losing. They would then need to win.

    My two cents, although I’m absolutely positive Richard Scudamore will not be seeking my opinion.

  3. Why not let the 4th place finisher face off against the FA cup champ in a one off for the final Champions league spot. If everyone really wants to see a rebirth of the FA cup then lets have a champs league spot for the winner…
    i mean you win the FA cup, the “most prestiges cup competition” and you get a europa spot you probably dont even want….
    As for the argument that a lesser team making it in the champs league could in the future effect the 4 spots now, seems like a bunch of crap. there is almost no way that the premier league would fall below the German league in the UEFA coefficient.

  4. People keep bringing up the UEFA coefficient as a reason why this is a bad idea. Don’t worry about it for two reasons: one, It takes a few years for the coefficient to drop, so one blip isn’t the end of the world.

    Two, The intended purpose of this is to “spread the wealth” and attack the disparity that the big 4 hold over the rest of the league. By opening up streams of revenue, in this case CL dollars to other teams, the idea is to get more money in different pockets.

    THAT is the main flaw of the proposal. Instead of breaking up the big 4 power base so maybe a Birmingham City can go to Europe and make money, this will actually solidify the big four, ensuring that a great season is still no guarantee to unseat a European incumbent. Take this year as an example.

    For the first time in about 5 years, there’s a legitimate threat that the “Big Four” will not finish 1-4 on the league. So, instead of breaking the tedium of the same 4 teams qualifying, it actually gives Liverpool a second chance after a season where they clearly don’t deserve it. Because of their usual 3rd-4th place finishes and European experience, this team is more capable than most of performing in “the big game” – certainly more than Aston Villa, or even the “new and improved” Manchester City, both of which have not succeeded in a “winner takes all” match in decades. Even though they’re closer to 7th than 4th, advantage Liverpool. Furthermore, knowing the urgency to fend off Spurs, Villa and City isn’t as pressing, this could actually cause a team like Liverpool to ease up, knowing that the 4-7 spots are adequately insulated (in points and the fact you still have to leapfrog other sides) against the mid-table sides. Instead of pushing for the top spots, Liverpool could coast to 5-6 annually and still get a prime shot a the biggest cash cow.

    Finally, the idea that this will distribute wealth does not hold water. In fact, to the uninitiated, Europe causes more problems than it solves. Look at teams such as Portsmouth, whose wage bill went through the roof, partly because they needed a bigger squad for European competition, partly because players knew the team had entered into a new stream of revenue and siphoned off as much for themselves as possible. Europe is for one season with no guarantees; contracts are much longer AND guaranteed. Sure, Milan at Fratton park was a thrill, but not work John Utaka at £80,000 a week!

    Even Everton had its fair share of hiccups when they made teh Champs league 4-5 years back. it took them time to find the balance between Europe and League, and it’s easy to debate that they’re still working out the mix, considering their poor starts these last few seasons.

    If you look back through the years, just about any team other than the big four, (who were adequately big to make the transition) has suffered for their European experiences, not benefitted. Middlesboro, Ipswich, Newcastle…

    If the FA / EPL is sincere about spreading the wealth, they shouldn’t look at cockamamie gimmicks, they should grow a set, stand up to the big four, and work out two a re-distribution of the TV wealth as is. Every team gets a better slice of the pie (except the big 4, presumably), every team can budget that money for the duration of the TV deal, barring relegation (hey, you can’t cover ALL the bases – there are still owners who you can’t save from themselves.)

    There are no guarantees in football, doomsday scenarios included. There’s no promise that any of what I suggest is destined to happen. But history has proven time and again that the more we manupulate to achieve a desired result, we actually push ourselves further from that end goal. The “inevitability” that this will distribute wealth and European experiences will, in fact, reverse into solidifying the status quo.

  5. Given the money involved, something is likely to happen. I like the idea of boosting the FA Cup with an automatic spot, so how about League Champion and runner up along with the FA cup winner = automatic qualification, then 4 plays 5, and winner plays 3 for last spot. In that way your not going so far down into mid-table. 6th place would be the lowest you’d need to go if/when the FA Cup winner is from 1-5 on the table.

    In the matter of the PL european co-efficient dropping, does it take in europa league results as well? And if so, wouldn’t this motivate the occasional “big 4” club to maintain motivation if/when they drop from the CL to the europa league? just wondering.

  6. These ideas leave as quickly as they arrive. You remember a few months back and the 19th game? Well this will also be forgotten in a while.

    The way it is now, all the top 4 will not want to change and most of the chasing pack will love the idea until they are able to get into the top 4.

  7. how awesome would it be that the 7th team wins on a fluke and then bombs in the champions league only to see England lose it’s 4th CL place as a result. This is the stupidest idea ever.

  8. I truly think the winners of the Carling Cup and the FA Cup should get the Champions League spots. It is the Champions League after all, you should have to win something to get in there, not just get 7th.

    PS. The winner of the Europa League should get a berth in the Champions League. If that was the prize for winning that competition, teams like Spurs and Villa would have taken it a lot more serious last year.

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