I was looking over the Coca Cola Championship table, checking whether my local team—Charlton Athletic—still stood a realistic chance of promotion to the Premiership this season when the idea struck. Imagine if there were playoffs in the Premiership for the last Champions League spot...
The system of playoffs operates in the six different tiers directly beneath the Premier League. This is where, at the end of the season, the teams finishing in third to sixth place get to play against each other in a knockout-style competition to eventually decide which team joins the Premiership; alongside the teams that finished in first and second.
For this system to work in the main league, the current format would have to change dramatically. It would mean fourth place no longer guarantees you the chance to qualify for the Champions League, but it only enters you into the playoffs against the teams that finished seventh, sixth, and fifth. To use last season's standings as an example, this would be Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa, and Blackburn.
Giving anyone of those four teams the opportunity to compete for the chance to enter Europe's elite competition can only be a good thing for English football. It would make the league more interesting, as teams finishing higher up know it not only gives them their UEFA Cup slots but the chance to get into the Champions League for real if they finish higher than seventh.
Imagine it; the competition would be fierce. The financial opportunities would be ripe and the versatility a system like it can give the league standings each season will be unpredictable. It would make breaking that illusive top four a myth. And the more I write about it, the more I think it would genuinely work.
At the moment, you can pretty much guess which four English teams would represent England in the Champions League before the competition had even began. But with a playoff system at work in the Premiership, this could open doors for other English clubs, who don't have the mega budgets, big players, and huge squads at expense of the bigger teams that have built that kind of infrastructure over the years.
Even if the other big European League like La Liga and Serie A didn't follow suite, it wouldn't harm the Premiership. It would work to making the incentive on each game more exciting.
The Premiership itself would actually get more interesting to watch, because then you would have teams from about 12th place to eighth place competing to enter these playoffs during the season. This would also nicely categorise the Premiership into three nice and tidy categories: Race for the Premiership, Playoffs for Fourth Champions-League Spot, and Relegation Battle.
I'm tired of the same old big fish in the Champions League spots. Whilst a playoff system may not send four of the most consistent teams into the Champions League each season, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. So, could a playoff system work in the Premiership?
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