Why the Premier League Should Have One Final Match

Photo by DavidKenny

I’ve heard it before. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The English Premier League isn’t broken. In fact, it does a lot of things that other professional leagues around the world have been unable to replicate. It has created a league that maximizes the importance of its regular season, while maintaining fan and club interest through the conclusion of the last match. By leveraging the Champions League and UEFA Europa League qualifying races, the relegation battle and more TV money the higher a team finishes  throughout the table; it ensures that every club has something to play for.

This is a far cry from America’s top professional sports’ leagues, which have had their regular seasons rendered less important my multi-stage playoffs. Without rewards – outside of qualifying for playoffs – for finishing the regular season with top records, many teams finish the season with makeshift squads as they jockey for seeding and hold out stars. Those out of playoff contention – without fear of any relegation – put out squads that lose games and get them closer to future draft picks.

However, after going through the reasons why the Premier League’s regular season is so much better than America’s top sports, the EPL falls short when it comes to crowning a rightful champion. Global sports’ fans like a ‘big game.’ A winner takes all, loser goes home affair. It’s where legends are made. This is especially the case in America, but it’s really no different in Europe or even Asia. World Cup and Champions League finals are the most viewed global sporting events and the Super Bowl is the largest American sporting event. That said, as the English Premier League continues to grow rapidly globally – why can’t there be one more match for all the marbles?

Sure there’s no final match or championship in Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga or pretty much any other football crazy nation across the world. And football purists will argue that’s what cups are for. However, cup finals don’t sell TV contracts and they don’t assist in growing the premiership. A true 39th game, an EPL Final, would create exposure for the league on par with the Super Bowl and the Champions League final (think 100-200 million global viewers), while infusing clubs across the league with more funds and giving them a slightly better shot at the EPL title – something the league drastically needs.

No, it wouldn’t end the reign of the “Big Four” over the EPL in a fortnight (that is going to take a salary cap), but it would give smaller clubs new hopes of lifting a Barclays’ title. Since the Premier League kicked off in 1992 the average total points for the champion is 86, while the average for the runner-up is 79.5. By opening up the title to a one game final between the club at the top of the table and the runner-up; you open up the title race to a range of teams capable of getting to 21 or 22 wins.

Perhaps more importantly for EPL viewers, the race for the second spot is annually more competitive than the race for the top spot and would become equally exciting to watch in a final match format. Over the last 18 years the average points difference between the top spot and the runner-up spot in the EPL is 6.24, while the difference between the runner-up spot and third is 5.76 points. Imagine no longer having to all-but-award the premiership title to Manchester United in late April? While recent results have given us Manchester United and Chelsea in one last battle for the title this upcoming match week, how many will be clamoring to watch Manchester United clinch the title at Ewood Park the following week?

That’s not say we’d have completely different results in recent years with an extra game. Chelsea and Manchester United last year, Manchester United and Liverpool in 08 /09, United and Chelsea in 07 / 08, 06 / 07 and 05 / 06; and Chelsea and Arsenal in 04 / 05. But we certainly could have crowned a different champion, even if the one game final was played at the home of the team that finished top of the table (as I would propose over one more match at Wembley). The 08 / 09 Liverpool squad would have had more than a puncher’s chance at their first Premier League title going back to Old Trafford a few months after dismantling United on the same pitch 4-1. Likewise, the high scoring 04 / 05 Arsenal squad that drew Chelsea twice certainly would have had a chance at giving The Blues their second loss of the season in a final match at Stamford Bridge.

Looking further back, imagine the wild atmosphere that would have taken place the last few weeks of the 2000 / 2001 season with recently promoted Ipswich Town and Mark-Viduka-led Leeds United both in contention for a final match appearance. Or, have a closer look at the 96 / 97 season and imagine the scene of Alan Shearer leading Newcastle out onto Old Trafford in his first year with the Magpies in an attempt to capture his second Premiership title (maybe they’d have a few goals left in them).

Sure it’s only hypothetically speaking, but looking in the future any way to enable new winners would assist in diversifying the competitive balance of a league that will still be stuck on 4 champions at the end of its 19th year this May. Compare that with the 12 different champions the best baseball league in the world (MLB) has had over the last 19 years, the 12 different champions the best American football league (NFL) has had during the same time period or the 8 different National Basketball Association champions.

One more game. One truly crowned champion. It’s not broken, but it can be made bigger and better.

Follow Kyle Austin’s updates on the business side of football and soccer at http://socceronomist.com and @Coach_Austin

104 thoughts on “Why the Premier League Should Have One Final Match”

  1. No, stupid idea. The “rightful” champion is the one that finishes at the top of the table. A final match wouldn’t work, it may work in American sports but not football.

  2. Idiotic.

    Maybe we should also change the shape of the ball, throw or carry it instead of kicking it, play in 5-second bursts punctuated by 45 second commercial breaks, and start wearing helmets and body armour.

      1. The comments above are idiotic. “american fagball”? I love SOCCER in here in America yet I hate how pompous you Euro’s who make comments like this are. I guarantee if you suit Rooney or anyone else up in pads and they take one hit from a football player and they would be out forever! I mean the crying on the pitch after a little touch or in most cases nothing more than a trip…LOL! Pathetic. The only time you see an American football player get stretchered off the field is when there is a serious spinal injury. Otherwise they will limp off on their own or with a little help. So don’t go calling American football players “fagballers”. You have no idea what you are talking about. You just make yourself look stupid and even more ignorant than the rest of the world already thinks you are. Im sure your the toughguy “hooligan” type who beats others up at soccer games just for kicks, right?? These are 2 different sports and have nothing to do with the authors article. What a sad comment….but I would expect nothing less from your type.

        1. I believe he was referring to the tights and the hitting each other on the butt and piling a bunch of men on top of each other.

        2. Mr. Saywhat? you are giving us american’s a bad image (we don’t need the help). You’re giving beer commercials a bad image. You’re giving BEER a bad image!
          If you don’t understand football (SOCCER!), leave it to the grownups. And the rest of you, good job ignoring him, you did a better job of it than I.

        3. Mr Saywhat?

          You contradict yourself in your reply. You say that Rooney should strap on some pads and get the crp kicked out of him, and then you say they are two different sports. Of course he would get smashed in, his didn’t train, nor probably wants to play football. If you want to make a real argument, compare it to Rugby where the impact is just as hard but without all the padding and protection.

          You also used “LOL” which is unforgivable

  3. I couldn’t disagree more. You contradict yourself several times in the article, and I’m not sure why you even wrote it.

  4. This only works if the two teams are within 3 points of each other. Otherwise what is the point in the top team getting out to a 9 point lead at the end of the season?

  5. The only way this makes sense is if you are a TV exec or corporate sponsor looking to make money. From any other perspective this is a terrible idea. A US style playoff would be a bad idea, but even that makes more sense for the EPL than one extra game. Your main argument seems to be that we need more diverse champions, but even as you pointed one extra game would not solve this. It would only possibly alter which of the top 4 won in a given year.

  6. Maybe I’m missing something here but there doesn’t seem to be any explanation offered as to how a “cup final” would lead to a greater competitive balance in the Premier League. If the same 4-5 teams are consistently at the top of the table year after year, wouldn’t they be the only participants in such a title match?

    I’m new to following the PL and it’s been fascinating to me how the relegation battle creates season-long interest across all games (unlike, say, Pittsburgh Pirates fans who can pretty much cash out on the postseason by late April). My only issue is that, while it does indeed create “interest”, that interest doesn’t seem to translate into much improvement for the following year — so it’s short-lived. So you narrowly avoided relegation? Congratulations — you’ll likely get to relive it all next year! I haven’t decided what’s worse — perpetual struggles in the PL vs. success in the lesser Championship league.

  7. Absolutely terrible idea. The best thing about the current format is that it rewards a team that performs consistently across the season. If you end up with a situation where two clubs are running away with things as opposed to one you end up with twice as many rubber-stamp games. Just no.

  8. Disagree. Too much at stake to base the champion in a one-off game. A biased referee could easily slant the game to an opposite side with a soft red card or wrong off-sides call. These bad calls have a way of evening out throughout the season but in a playoff format, would be devastating.

    I like the notion that an entire body of work determines the champion and not some team on a late season hot streak. It’s a nice alternative to American sports playoffs.

  9. I agree with all the disagreement above, but one question I’ve had the past few years: why not have the final weekend feature more noteworthy clashes between the “Big 4” (or 5 or 6…). That COULD possibly create a “one-off” scenario for the championship, or even for the fourth Champions League spot, etc.
    What are the concerns over setting this up? It’s not as if schedule-makers don’t have a pretty good idea of who will be Top 5 or 6 each season.

  10. I agree with @Liam. The EPL is a league competition and so the team with the most points at the end of the season wins the title. Very Simple Concept. I do not understand the rationale of giving the 2nd place finisher the chance to steal the title in one single, extra game that none of the other teams in the league get to contest. It is unfair and unbalanced. If you really, really must have an American-style Grand Winner, then you have to add a round of playoff matches, which would unreasonably extend the season for the players.

  11. To JW, they try and do that – Arsenal – United last week, Chelsea – United this week, look at Spurs, City and Liverpool’s fixtures and you’ll see that they’ve pitted them all against each other in the last month or so, ditto for the relegation candidates – Wolves have to play Blackburn and West Brom (who you would have had down as relegation candidates in September) and West Ham have to play Wigan and Blackburn, so they’re making an effort and it’s working – 5th place basically hinges on Liverpool – Spurs, and the relegation battles are even more intense now that we’re entering the final few weeks.

  12. Refereeing is WAY to poor to leave the title up to one game. Imagine if what happened in the Chelsea-Tottenham game happened in this hypothetical title game

  13. It’s not a ‘terrible’ idea in and of itself because it works in the FA/Carling and Champions League Final.. But, like everyone else has said so far, it wouldn’t work in the Premier League.

  14. I’m assuming you did not give much thought to this article before submitting it. It’s funny how in 1 article you managed to bash the playoff format in the USA and praise the straight-forward format in the EPL… yet you advocate for a playoff (albeit 1-off) to enhance excitement in the EPL.

  15. I agree with everyone here, this is a bad idea and it would reduce the importance of other season games and the FA Cup Final. If this idea was adopted and was successful, you can be assured every other league would copy it and it would lose its distinctiveness real quick. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  16. Gaffer: why do you let amateurs write such stupid articles on the blog?
    The best team in 38 games in the English Premier League will be crowned as the most deserving champion. It is as simple as that.
    Playoffs are killing MLS; let them NFL/NHL/MLB have and enjoy their playoffs.

      1. Couldn’t agree more, Gaffer, not agreeing with someone does not make them an amateur. However an article with typos, contradictory messages and a lack of supporting information for the proposal is. What problem would this fix? How would this fix the undocumented problem? There really isn’t any setup or background provided in this article and structurally it is uneven.

        I have been a long time fan and reader of this blog and I can honestly say that I don’t bother with many articles anymore and only really listen to the podcast due to the quality of the writing. My sincerest hope is that you consider what I am suggesting.

        1. Matthew, where are the typos? As for supporting information, Kyle provided a chart to illustrate his point but I decided not to include it because the way it was designed might confuse some readers.

          The Gaffer

          1. Where are the typos?? “Regulation battle” for one, and I haven’t even gone through the article with the intention of identifying errors – this one just jumped straight out at me on first reading.

            1. Dave, thanks for catching that. That one spelling mistake has been corrected. Just so you and the other readers know, I’m proofreading all articles now before they’re published. Mistakes will creep through at times. I’m only human. Show me any other website out there including the best of the best (The Guardian, BBC Sport, etc), and I can show you spelling mistakes. I’ll do my best to keep them to a minimum though.

              The Gaffer

                1. Looking at the comments to this article…i think my subjective view is with the majority not the minority.

                  The writer does not even put an argument across, they have just thrown out an idea with what appears to be very little consideration

                2. Yea Gaffer, stop posting articles that bring in comments and page views! From now on just stick to leaked jersey photos…now that’s entertainment!

              1. No worries…I try not to be an internet spelling pedant, but that one just leapt out at me. It’s a forgiveable one though, since “regulation” is at least a real word, so it wouldn’t have flagged up on MS Word’s spell check. I didn’t see any others.

  17. Stupid idea. The fairness of the full round robin is what attracted me to soccer years ago. Cups exist for a reason – to have an exciting win-or-go-home tournaments to go along with the leagues. But after 38 games, the standings don’t lie. The Premier League puts its 4 best teams in the Champions League every year.

    Whoever mentioned that playoffs are killing MLS is absolutely right. If MLS sent its top 4 in the standings to the CONCACAF Champions League each year, you would likely see better results on an annual basis.

    1. Joe in Indianapolis, your top 4 from MLS argument sounds good in theory, but recent history proves otherwise. Real Salt Lake were one goal from the continental championship this year after qualifying from winning the MLS Cup. If table standings alone decided who made CONCACAF, they would have been far from qualifying. Meanwhile, LA Galaxy (the #2 team in the table) were pathetically eliminated by the Puerto Rico Islanders.

  18. I think the PL trophy is the true league championship. It goes to the team that has been the most consistent and successful in the league from start to finish. With a play off, you give lesser teams the oppurtunity to win who probably were not very good at the start. Would allow a Liverpool to play for a an EPL Championship? That’s what Cups are for. Why not just invent a new Cup.

  19. Wow what a silly idea!!!!!

    I can’t believe the author actually wrote a whole article to justify it.

    You can mess around with your North American sports all you want, but please leave the beautiful game alone the way it is. There’s a reason why its the most popular sport in the world. Maybe I should write an article on how American sports should try to emulate real “Football”.

    1. I think the point is why change what’s working? The NFL is a $9 billion enterprise that entirely dominates the American sports landscape. The NFL Draft gets higher TV ratings than NBA Playoff games. The EPL is the most popular league in the most popular sport, bringing in billions of dollars from almost every country in the world. They do things differently, and both work very well.

  20. The reason that playoffs work and are necessary in the NFL is that with 32 teams and only 16 games, there is nothing close to a balanced schedule. American football also lends itself better to one-game do-or-die scenarios – with that few games, each week becomes almost that important in the first place. I love watching my Red Bulls in MLS, but I do think the MLS playoffs are a bit extraneous when you already have a perfectly balanced league schedule.

  21. I think the writer is missing the difference between a league and cup (playoff) competition.

    One of the positives of the European system is they have been able to maintain the importance of 2 competitions by holding the competitions at th same time unlike North American sports where the playoff follows the league season and thus makes the league champion irrelevant.

    The NHL even offers a trophy to winner of the league champion, but only the most hardcore of hockey fans could tell you who won the President’s Cup in a given year.

    North Americans thus have a hard time grasping the concept that a given season could have more than one champion.

  22. This is just a silly, misguided post, I’m sorry. You open with “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, so what is the point of the rest of the article.

    To completely counter your argument, please see:


    An article I wrote last year. The NFL playoffs are thrilling theater (my favorite sport and league) but the European soccer leagues determine their true champion in the best and fairest way.

  23. Totally flawed reasoning from the writer, but it has generated a lot of discussion, which im sure was the writer’s intent when this article was conceived.

  24. OK, im sure im not providing anything by saying i disagree with this post
    but just for the sake of argument lets assume this system was set in place this season, the man united would relax and play the last games against Chelsea an Arsenal without trying too hard, also the last 2 against least competitive teams, the way it is now it provides exciting games for the full 4 games (just an example number it could be more or less) and not just excitement for the title game.

    Lets say Chelsea beats Man u the next game, you will see a manchester united tying to beat up black pool and black..(i dont remember the rest of the name but it starts with “black”) and those games will be very fun to watch, it would not happen if there was one final championship game beacause man u and chelsea would play the last 2 games way more relaxed than they are now, i prefer more great matches than just one great match.

    Im from Mexico, take a look at our mediocre league system, i dont think the teams or players have the greatest level but they do OK, we have a system where the first 8 (its trickier than that but basically there are 8 teams) compete in knock out stages, so everyone at some point of the season can relax and just give their best when they qualify for these stage, it is really stupid, uncompetitive and just wrong, and it is lowering the mexican football level.

    I Hope the EPL NEVER does something like this.

  25. 3 out of the 4 major competitions english teams do have a final game: The carling cup, FA cup, and champions league. The premier league is the only one where the truly best team is guarenteed to win

  26. In Australian sports they play a whole season to determine who will finish in the top 8, then have a play-off system between the top 8. In essence a side finishing 8th in the comp has as much chance of winning overall as the team who finishes top, And that’s fair because…??

    Most ridiculous article I’ve read in a long time. Aside of the concept being pathetically flawed, in the 19 years of the premiership, there’s only 1 occasion where his idea *may* have introduced a new winner other than the 4 current winners, (Newcastle).

    Stick to U.S. sports, you patently have no idea about proper football.

    1. Your logic is flawed. The side that finished 8th only has “as much chance of winning” if they are just as good as the top team. If after an entire season one team is in first and another is in 8th, the 1st place team should beat them easily. And if they don’t, why do they deserve a title? Shouldn’t a title winner be able to win a must-win game?

      I like the EPL system, but I like playoff systems as well. There’s no need to for one side to “win”; both work where they are currently being used.

      1. Ah you have a point Joe but Kev is right… in our rugby league, 2 seasons running (08 and 09) the 8th best team beat the 1st team in the opening round. Our system works so that the top 2 basically can’t get be knocked out… but in 09 the top team lost the following week also and was duly eliminated. The 8th team (Parramatta) kept winning and actually made the final but lost. I happen to support Parramatta but the system unfairly rewarded my team because they happened to be the most inform team come the end of the season and yet was far from consistent in the season generally.

        Our rugby league is flawed because while it’s not a true double round robin – you play about 6 teams once and 9 teams twice for 24 games – we don’t have the conference system American sport has to compensate for the inequities of the draw.

    2. only 1 occasion where his idea *may* have introduced a new winner other than the 4 current winners, (Newcastle).

      And Liverpool too – they finished 2nd at one point.

      However, the flip-side is that the “Championship Game” may have resulted in one less team winning the league – Blackburn’s title in 1995 (?) might have gone to Man Utd.

  27. Wait, why not play this final game abroad too? It could be the 39th game.

    Stupid f*cking idea. Sorry.

  28. Everyone else has hashed out why this is such a bad idea. However it might be interesting to have the top 3 qualify for the champions league, then have 4th-7th do a playoff format the same as the lower league do, 4th against 7th, 5th against 6th, and the winners play each other for the prize of the last champions league spot. Loser could get a Europa spot. UEFA would never go for it, but considering how much money a Champions League spot is worth it would make it worth it for mid table teams to bust a gut to try and get to 7th.
    This year for instance you could have Man City, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton fighting out for it. That would generate some serious revenue.

  29. The only way want to ‘FINAL’ match happening is if there’s only 2 Teams at the top of the table, level on points, level on goal difference, and split the head-to-head matches (or both draws) in the season. Then and ONLY then would a ‘FINAL’ be justifiable because there are is no other reasonable tie-break criteria that should be considered.

    1. I agree. The only time something like this should ever happen is if two sides are so dead even that some sort of ridiculous statistic has to be used to determine a league champion.

  30. Americans….Why do they always try to f*ck with everything. There’s a reason why you’re following the EPL while living in America, its because its bloody exciting the way it is!

    Try throwing this idea out to the public in England, there would be riots I tell you. The insanity.

  31. hahahaha, what a funny article!
    oh wait.., is no joke?
    mm no wonder you write on socceronomist lets think sport not money!

  32. This sentence from your own blog kills your entire argument…

    “Since the Premier League kicked off in 1992 the average total points for the champion is 86, while the average for the runner-up is 79.5.”

    If the runner up can’t get within 3 point of the champion, what’s the point of giving them an extra chance? They already played the champion twice, why should they deserve another chance? Might as well institute a playoff with the top 4. Why is the second place team more deserving than the third place team that finished 1 or 2 or 3 points behind?

    This is what the season is for. There is no need for a change.

  33. You want entire season to be decided by this 39th game.
    Stupid, idiotic & worthless idea.
    if u like the idea so much go watch your Super bowl.

      1. Most are just watching the commercials…And another third are watching to see if they are going to win that bet.

  34. I would add something but, I would just be rehashing what everyone else has said.

    Nonetheless, I will admit I am rather impressed with one aspect of this article. In my life, I have never seen anything written that received this many responses where every single commenter disagreed with the author.

    I mean, we live in a day and age where not an insignificant amount of the population doubts whether the President of the United States was actually born in the United States of America. Even more shocking, some people still believe Osama bin Laden is alive. Yet, here you are taking a stance that appears to be even more outrageous (at least judging by the universal disagreement in the comment section).

    I salute you for doing what I previously thought was mathematically impossible.

  35. OK stupid idea.. 39th match will never ever work.

    However! I do see the underlying message the writer is trying to put across. We have a league where unless you’re taken over by an Arab Billionaire you have no chance of winning the league. Spurs got champions league by spending more money over the last few years than the bottom half of the table combined!

    The point is that maybe something can be done to even the playing field and maybe get a few more teams higher up the table.

    Is a 39th match the way to do that? No.

  36. You’re an idiot

    Why don’t we just go all out and get separate defensive and offensive team, and have a multiball situation if 90 minutes finish as a tie?

  37. While I don’t think a two team playoff is something I want to see in the EPl, I don’t understand all the hate in these comments. The article was well thought out and while it’s not making a point many of us seem to agree on, isn’t it better to sometimes have opinion pieces that don’t always agree with our notions? I like coming to this site for several reasons but one of the biggest is to see a wide arrary of thoughts and opinions about soccer….if the goal is to just write stuff that everyone agrees with what’s teh point?

    1. It’s the attitude the article was written with and the previous history. We’ll call it cultural ignorance. The article comes across culturally ignorant and patronizing. And almost no one who follows football wants to be told they need to be like the “Super Bowl”

      1. I think the article is sound enough not to have people throw things out like “waste of space”. He admitted that the current format works and seems to be popular but that he thinks a final game between the first and second ranked team would be exciting and would become the most popular single game in the World. If you agree or not is up for debate, but it would be nice to have people debate that point and it’s merits.

        The counter-argument of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” as a reason against the article doesn’t hold much water to me. They’re ton of things that work, and have had someone come along and make them better . For example, MLB used to have only 4 teams total make the playoffs. Many fans were as upset as some of the posters here seem to be over the idea of adding an additional 4 teams to the playoffs, but years later everyone seems to like it (espcially the owners :)

        Take the NBA playoffs where home court seems increasingly un-important and with so many teams making the playoffs the regular season seems to becoming less important every year. We saw it this year when the Spurs were “awarded” the Griz/Thunder/Nuggets side of the bracket for having the best record in the West. What if the NBA instituted the top seed in each conference can decide their first round opponent? The Spurs would have certainly not picked the Griz and the Hornents, who they would have picked, would have been a nice reward for playing the best over 82 games. A lot of people would say that idea is stupid, much like the idea here, but some poeple might like the idea and it’s fun to speculate.

        Maybe adding to this idea of a championship game in the EPL what if you made it a two match game and gave the number one seed start out up 1-0? That might be fun…

  38. Ok. To start with, no one in England calls it the EPL, they call it the Prem. So you loose respect right off the bat.

    Secondly, the idea of a “final game” is laughable. Why change decades of tradition and success for a few extra quid. I don’t see one plausible argument for it in your article so it begs the question why you chose to write about it in the first place.

      1. Because this person wrote the article just to fill some space. It has no grounding or no argument. It proposes changing something that is entrenched in the sport across all countries and leagues. And some half-wit comes in with a weak article.

    1. David, no one calls the Premier League the EPL in England because there’s no need to. But ask soccer fans around the world and many of them will refer to it as the EPL. Why? So that it differentiates from all of the other “Premier Leagues” in the world such as the:

      Armenian Premier League
      Belarusian Premier League
      Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina
      Pakistan Premier League
      Kuwaiti Premier League
      Malaysia Premier League
      Maltese Premier League
      Indonesia Premier League
      Iran Premier League
      Irish Premier League (Northern Ireland)
      Israeli Premier League
      Kazakhstan Premier League
      Premier Soccer League (South Africa)
      Russian Premier League
      Saudi Premier League
      Scottish Premier League
      Thai Premier League
      Ukrainian Premier League
      Welsh Premier League

      The Gaffer

      1. Is this blog have anything to do with those other leagues. The fact it is called EPL Talk I would hope its a given that its about the prem? no?

  39. Not sure if it needs to be said again, but this really is a ridiculous article, one of EPL Talk’s worst ever. I’ll try and be specific with some actual reasons why:

    Firstly, it goes on and on about how great the EPL is, and how it has succeeded in making its regular season important (by the sheer value of the fact that it is not made redundant by a silly play-off system). But yet it advocates for the implementation of a play-off system (and although the proposed system is only for the top two, you can guarantee that if this was implemented, the same train of thought would lead to campaigns to extend it to the top 4, then the top 6, then the top 8….then all of a sudden, you have a massive play-off system and a largely pointless regular season, just like the USA).

    Secondly, another inconsistency is the claim that “Global sports’ fans like a ‘big game.’ A winner takes all, loser goes home affair“….even though he acknowledges that this is not the case in the domestic football leagues (or many other sports) in most of Europe, S America, etc etc. So it sounds like by “global sports fans” the author actually means “American sports fans”, which is a typical mistake made by insular American sports writers.

    the English Premier League continues to grow rapidly globally – why can’t there be one more match for all the marbles?” ….well precisely because it is growing rapidly without a final championship game. Why change a winning format, that creates the fairest schedule, that has existed for 100+ years and been replicated throughout the world, just for the sake of appealing to the relative handful of US fans who want everything to look like the SuperBowl. (The significance of the Super Bowl is overrated, by the way – as this website has pointed out before, the SB’s global audience is FAR lower than the figures bandied around by it’s promoters).

    it would give smaller clubs new hopes of lifting a Barclays’ title.
    Not really – if the championship game was solely open to the top two finishers, then we would still have had an EPL monopolized by Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal, as is the case anyway. Of course you can point out that maybe Liverpool could have won the championship in that season when they finished 2nd. But by the same token, perhaps Blackburn would not have won the EPL in the season in which they actually finished first. Hardly a case of giving the smaller clubs hope.

    Comparisons with the number of winners int he NBA/MLB/NFL are not like-for-like, for the simple reason that those sports both have huge proportions of their leagues entering into the knock-off play off rounds. If they only had the top-two regular season performers entered into a Championship game, the end result would likely be the same as it was anyway.

  40. Completely disagree with having a one-off match. It is perhaps THE most appealing thing about watching the EPL is that EVERY match matters. I would not have watched a single ManU game in the last month if I knew they were a shoe-in for a “final”. Also, why would anyone be watching on Sunday if we knew there was going to be a repeat match at the end of the month. 4 competitive games between ManU and Chelsea in enough for 1 season.

    The ONLY place I could see this making sense (and I am not even completely sold on this idea) is a playoff between teams 4-7 in the standings for the final Champions League spot. That would give teams like Bolton, Stoke, Fulham, Everton etc… something to play for in this last three weeks (other than money for placement in the league). However, does that not degrade the season that ManCity has had? Also, Tottenham should not get a chance for CL considering how they have faded in the last 3 months and Liverpool should not be rewarded for a great HALF-season. The big prizes should be for teams that have performed ALL YEAR.

    1. tomasblog – you have a great point about the 4-7 placed team. Mid-placed teams seem to give up half way through the season.

    2. Sides outside of the top four already have something to play for, Europa League qualification.

      Moreover, if you instituted a playoff system clubs would just be encouraged to rest their key players for the last few games of the season in order to have them ready for the playoffs or jockey for favourable match-ups (like they do in North American sports).

      The last five seasons, not including this one, the 4th place side in the Premier League has finished an average of 6.6 points ahead of the 5th place side. This season Manchester City is currently 7 points ahead of Liverpool with a match in hand (admittedly Spurs are in 6th with the same amount of points as Liverpool and one game in hand, but they are behind on goal difference).

      Consequently, one of two things negative things can happen as a result. One, the club in 4th will rest their players creating a series of meaningless games that people will have to pay to watch and might pose serious ramifications on the standings for other sides. Two, and even more worrying in my mind, a situation will arise where a side in 4th will be close enough to 3rd that they will push on until the final match of the season while a 7th place side will have their playoff qualification wrapped up and be afforded the opportunity to sit their players giving them an unwarranted advantage come playoff time.

      Furthermore, players play enough games already with league matches, cup matches, European competitions and international matches. Why make players play an additional two games at the end of the season for the privilege of playing an additional two games at the beginning of the season to qualify for the Champions League? Granted they are paid fantastic sums of money, but surely even they need a rest.

      1. One more thing, thanks to the way the Premier League divides up prize money, even sides not fighting for Europa League places still have something to play for.

        As of last season the Premier League champion got £16 million in prize money and each club below the Premier League winner received £800 000 less than the club above them.

  41. They made changes to Rugby Union in England, to have a play off to decide who wins the league and typically the team that’s in form at the end of season wins the title. For this reason I am against any change to how the EPL is decided, it works greats as is i.e. the team with the best record for the entire season wins. There are plenty of cups for the one off match. What makes the EPL great is that is a marathon and not a sprint.

  42. Foolish idea, unless it came down to Team A and B having identical records and only separated by name difference.

    It makes no sense, if Team A wins the league by 10 points then Team B weren’t as good as Team A, league tables identify that. Besides, if that scenario comes about and we have another game, and Team B steal it, doesn’t it render the last 38 games useless?

    As for a “winner take all” game, it may not be very prestigious but we have the Community Shield which pits the League and Cup winners against eachother or League and Cup winner against runner-up in the League.

  43. As long as the content is not abusive, racist or the like, I think we need to allow for people putting across their ideas or thoughts freely. That the majority does not agree with a writer’s opinion is no reason to block its content. In a free society we should all be allowed to voice our opinions or ideas even if ultimately it ends up being not very good.

    We should all say what we think about the idea without personal attacks. Personal attacks do not advance the argument.

    I am not in favour of a playoff system as it would allow teams at the top who would be involved in it to maybe not go all out to win the last few matches as finishing first is not important. This would have all kinds of ramifications for other teams and their position in the standings as well. The present system rewards the team with the most points. And that’s fair. Everyone plays the same number of matches with the same opposition an equal number of times. No need for a playoff.

    The reason an American sport has a playoff system is that all teams don’t play the same opposition the same number of times. In the NFL, some teams never play other teams at all in a season. In the NBA, a team plays some teams twice in a season and other teams 3 times and still others 4 times. It’s similar in baseball and hockey. That’s why there is a need for some type of playoff.

  44. I agree with Cricketlover that we should allow people to state their opinion regardless of whether it is good or bad or favored by a few or many. If you think a piece is poorly argued or written then ignore it and move on. Or better still, point out to the writer where his argument or facts fall short.

  45. If you read the Premier League rule book, there could be a playoff if two or more clubs are even on points, goal difference, and goals scored. For the record, United and Chelsea are even with goal difference, after everything we have seen this season, you never know.

  46. I agree everyone should be allowed to voice their opinion, no matter how assinine or uninformed. Why ruin a great league with America’s fixation on instant gratification that is the one off championship. The author argues that the one off game is where legends are made, but misses the point that in the EPL legends are made on a tuesday night in january or february playing somewhere in the northeast where it’s below freezing and raining against a newly promoted team with an awful pitch. The team that wants to be Champion has to play that match with the same intensity and focus as playing on a beutiful 80 degree saturday afternoon in april. That’s where true legends are written and Champions made.

  47. The personal attacks are, as usual, unnecessary. It’s perfectly okay to criticize the content, however. :) And with that said, if you’re going to make a case for changing something as crucial as that which determines the winner of a professional sports league, I’d like to see more of a reason than, and I paraphrase, “just liking it better this way”. Take a cue from these guys, who provide some statistical reasoning for a change, albeit in a different sport:


  48. Isn’t American throwball pretty much the only sport with a winner takes all game though in the States? All the other sports have play offs where a game 7 may happen or may not? Surely it would be easier to tinker with that format than the Premier League?

    1. You’re forgetting NCAA football and basketball, both of which are bigger deals than even most pro sports in America.

  49. Poor Chelsea – considering their woeful display at Old Trafford, it’s only fair they get one more match, sorry, “One more game” against Manchester United, as the Red Devils have done nothing to convince anyone all season that they deserve to be ” truly crowned” champions.

    It’s the ” bigger and better” thing to do, this “game” can be squeezed in the night before the CL final, right Kyle?

  50. I am a big fan of the EPL, and I am a big NFL fan, and have season tix to a MLB and NHL team.

    One very large reason to have or not have playoffs is the existence of a
    ‘balanced’ schedule – the EPL teams play everyone twice, and let the
    points call the winner. It is in essence a 19 round home-home playoff.

    With 32 teams and 16 games, it is impossible to have a balanced NFL schedule, and MLB teams play ‘in divisoin’ rivals 18 times a season.

    Three totally differenct sports, schedules, and cultural histories how they are structured today.

    Points –
    1. The NFL in my humble opinion is the best run pro sports enterprise in the world – salary caps, revenue sharing. Each NFL team would be profitable not selling a single ticket to a home game. The TV money from the three contributing US networks is huge.
    2. The EPL is the best example of the world’s most popular game – but the dominance of the Big 4, and the reported financial troubles of numerous sides points at the dark side. And the reluctance of say a Man U not sharing revenue – on such a fringe revenue stream as ‘side advertising’ – looks more like the Boston-NYY self-centered MLB.
    3. The skewed revenues of MLB is hurting that sport and its’ fans. It cannot continue at the current pace. But it is 40 years too late for NFL revenue sharing in MLB. And MLB by the way the sport is structured lends itself to ‘series’ playoff play. Baseball is a game of the ‘three game series’ – – –

      1. Also, the reason an NFL team can run without selling a single season ticket is because a 60 min game lasts around 4 hours because of all the advertisements….what do you want? bud light commercial every throw in?

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