Champions League Playoff Would Keep Premier League Competitive
The suggestion of an end-of-season Champions League playoff reeks of the insatiable gluttony with which English and European football is now sadly synonymous.
That said, it’s not a bad idea.
The likes of Liverpool, Man City, Spurs, and Villa playing in front of packed houses at Wembley (or perhaps the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama) on the May bank holiday is surely an attractive proposition for the fans, clubs, television networks, and the FA.
It would put an end to the often inconsequential “wind-down” of the season for some clubs, giving almost every team something to strive for right up to the last day.
Of course a playoff wouldn’t have been suggested if it weren’t commercially lucrative, but as the Premier League would argue, and many people would tend to agree, the monotony of the big four has to be broken for the sake of competition. Having made life so comfortable for them, it could be said that the Premier League would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.
Nonetheless, they could be on to a winner here.
Without a change to the current system, the vicious cycle of finishing in the top four, receiving the most prize money, and buying the best players to finish in the top four again will only result in United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool squeezing the life out of the Premier League as a competitive spectacle.
Of course, prize money means very little to clubs owned by the likes of Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, but securing the fourth spot is far from sewn up for Manchester City this season.
Even if City became regular top-four finishers, would it dramatically alter the league positions of those teams we associate with qualifying for the Champions League year after year?
Salary caps, squad caps, and awarding the FA Cup winners a place in the Champions League are all viable ways to increase competition, but with the Premier League widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best league in the world, it would appear that it is UEFA that needs to reform.
Awarding the winner of the Europa League a place in the Champions League is surely where the restructuring should begin.
Some may say it is bringing socialism to football, but the very fact that people recoil when they merely consider the prospect of Real Madrid playing Fulham or Sunderland indicates how utterly conditioned we have become with the current setup and how desperately it needs reform.
If Michel Platini will not foster change, the Premier League may have to.
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