CL play-off under consideration

Currently the teams finishing in the top four positions are handed

entry to Europe’s elite competition, either in the main draw or at

the qualifying stage. Now it has been proposed that only the first

three be decided on league position and the fourth place be

determined by a play-off. That could mean the teams finishing in

the positions fourth to seventh playing a mini-knockout

competition. Such a move would be seen as a measure to inject more

competition into the league. The same four clubs – Liverpool,

Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea – have filled the top four

positions in five of the past six seasons. Only Everton, in 2005,

have broken their stranglehold. The proposal is thought to have

been raised at a recent meeting of all 20 clubs and will be

considered again when they next meet in April. The Premier League

have not commented directly on the matter. A spokesman said: “We

look at all sorts of ideas and rarely make comment until we have

decided something definitely.” If the proposal was to be voted on

at any stage in the future, a 14-6 majority could be enough to see

it implemented. The idea may not be favoured by the established

‘big four’, who would obviously have the most to lose, but the idea

is thought to have been enthusiastically greeted by some clubs.

Interestingly, the proposal has been raised at a time when

Liverpool’s place in the top four is coming under serious

competition anyway from the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa

and Tottenham. Nevertheless such an idea would keep interest in the

season, even for clubs in mid-table, going for longer. There are

other factors which would have to be considered, however, such as

how the play-offs might lengthen the season and how they could be

fitted into the calendar. Determining Europa League qualification

is an added complication. A satisfactory format would also have to

be devised. Some might argue a Football League-style home and away

play-off might not be appropriate to settle what is basically

fourth place. One spin-off effect could be that the matches fill

the void left by the failure of the ‘Game 39’ proposal, and they

would certainly generate television interest. But again, it would

have to be decided if that was appropriate for a lesser prize.