Play-off proposal provides excitement, but stinks of Sky
February 15, 2010
So the issue of the final Champions League spot has once again raised it’s head today. The Premier League are said to be considering the option of introducing a play-off to decide who gets the fourth slot, and with it, the millions of pounds that qualification provides. And it would seem from early reports that it has the backing of 16 clubs. I’ll bet it has!
Surprise, surprise, the four who are against the proposal are the so-called ‘big 4’ of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. Now, I’m no supporter of these clubs, and have been crying out for a change in the status quo, so I’m quite vociferously behind any side who can break this stranglehold. However, despite my original excitement at the prospect, I’m not convinced I’m behind the idea.
Perhaps it is the cynic in me, but this feels very much like a money-making scheme, and I’m sure Sky will have pound-signs in their eyes at the prospect. Whilst the idea provides additional excitement, and stops games from being a non-entity in the middle of the table, I’m not convinced it’s for the good of the game.
A friend of mine has already suggested that this is a slippery slope, and to a degree I agree with him. After all, if this is a success what comes next? A relegation play-off? Maybe a Super League-esque Grand Final to decide who wins the Championship?
And what about in international years? This means that at the end of the season, the players from 4 clubs have further risks of getting injured, which ultimately does not benefit the national game. Imagine in a World Cup year, just a few weeks before the tournament begins, Steven Gerrard breaks his leg? Or Wayne Rooney? Particularly as the Play-Off involves 4 sides, there will be at least three more matches (going by the basis of a two-legged semi final, with home and away fixtures and a one-off final match at Wembley) that’s a lot of risk to take with players.
However, I have a proposal which both shakes up the Premier League and is only one extra match. Now I’ve long supported the idea of the FA Cup winners getting the final spot, which will completely revolutionise the competition. Indeed, this idea has the backing of many, including Platini and former England striker Gary Lineker. However, I’d suggest the Premier League are less than keen.
Despite that, a play-off between the Cup winners and the fourth-placed team would be my proposal. I’d like to see this as a one-off match, played at Wembley or Old Trafford, and thus reducing the risk of injury to players. This way, it would ensure that sides field a full-strength 11 and breathe a new lease of life into the FA Cup. And at the same time, would provide an opportunity to shake up the status quo.
Who knows, it may even provide some of the smaller clubs with a European adventure, and gradually erode the stranglehold the ‘Sky Four’ have on the English game.
As always, I’d appreciate your feedback.