What if the Premier League Had a Playoff for the Final Champions League Spot?

Congratulations to Manchester City

Let me start by saying I love the current Premier League format. A 38-game schedule where every game matters, from yesterday’s Manchester City versus Tottenham match and all the way back to when the season kicked off on August 14, I have been watching with great interest.

Growing up in North America, I am used to the post-season playoff season. While playoffs in all major sports can be magical and have produced some of my most cherished sports memories, I can count on my hand the number of regular season ice hockey games I watched this season (the sport closest to my heart) due to the insignificance of the regular season. On the other hand, rarely has a weekend gone by this year where I have not watched multiple Premiership games. There are many reasons for this, but most of all this is due to the fact that there are essentially 3 different competitions in the Premier League:

  1. Title race
  2. Champions League race
  3. Relegation battle

All teams are involved in one of these competitions throughout the season (and this year, some teams have been involved in more than one of these). The value of this for a league is incredible, the fact that I would be almost as interested on how the lower level teams are doing as I am with the elite teams means that I watch more football and spend more time learning about all the teams in the League.

That being said, for the first time all year, I am left wondering in these last two weeks what certain teams have left to play for in the league. More specifically, what the mid-table teams, such as Everton, Bolton, Stoke, Fulham, Newcastle, etc., will be looking to accomplish in the next 3 games as European qualification is no longer possible and relegation has been avoided.  Which is why I am interested in the following:

What if places 4-7 had a playoff for the final Champions League spot? Here are the pros and cons:

The pros:

  1. More teams could reasonably have a chance at Champions league glory. For example: In the last 3 years alone, 10 teams would have had a chance at making the Champions League: The Big 6, Everton, Aston Villa, Fulham, Blackburn
  2. Games at the end of the season would become VERY important for mid-table clubs as 7th place is no stretch for many teams
  3. Playoff games, while non-traditional, would provide great excitement that non-elite clubs rarely get unless they make an unexpected cup run

The Cons:

  1. Devalues the season. Man City have been consistent throughout the season, as opposed to Tottenham who have been great and awful at times, and should be rewarded.
  2. Play-offs do not belong in football, and with the FA Cup, mid-level clubs have another major competition that they should make a priority.

My biggest problem is with devaluing the achievements of clubs finishing fourth. Manchester City have been far more consistent this season than Tottenham and really deserved that Champions league spot over them and Liverpool, just as Tottenham deserved theirs last year. That being said, I do feel bad for teams such as Everton and Aston Villa who have had great teams on low budgets for years but have failed to crack the big-spending top 4 (with Everton in ’05 being the exception) and that is going to be even harder with the emergence of Manchester City as another big-spender.

Does anyone else have a solution to my lack of enthusiasm for the remaining mid-table games this season?

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