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Premier League plans play-off for last Champions League place


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The Premier League is considering introducing a play-off system to determine the fourth club to qualify for the following season's European Champions League.

Currently the club which finishes fourth goes through but the new proposal would mean a play-off between the clubs finishing fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. The intention is to inject more competition into a league in which qualification has for years remained in the hands of the same four clubs.

Premier League sources have confirmed that the play-off proposal was presented at the most recent meeting of all clubs, on 4 February, and the league's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, was authorised to return with further details in April.

It is understood that the idea was enthusiastically supported by all clubs ? except the so-called big four of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Scudamore, and the league's secretary, Mike Foster, will examine the practicalities of how a play-off system could work: whether it should take the form of a home-and-away knockout system, similar to that in the Football League, or incorporate seeding. They will also look into when matches could be fitted into a crowded fixture calendar before making recommendations.

The idea was presented as part of the Premier League's strategic review of its format and operations and springs from two particular motivations. The first is to crack the problem of England's top league becoming less open and competitive, with the richest clubs, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, having strengthened their hold on the top four places over several years. One league source said it was an odd twist that the idea has been raised now, in a season when Liverpool's claim to the fourth place is being seriously challenged.

The response among clubs outside the top four is understood to have been positive, with some believing that a play-off system would create more competitive matches and give more clubs a prize to challenge for. Most clubs now feel they have no chance of attaining fourth place but almost the whole Premier League could be brought into a competition to finish seventh and make it to the play-offs. The medium-sized clubs, which increasingly aspire to break the cartel, are said to have been enthusiastic, seeing play-offs as a great opportunity.

The big four, who have been qualifying on merit at the end of each season and reaping the footballing and financial rewards of Champions League participation are understood to have been less keen. Self-interest is clearly a factor, with those clubs concerned about protecting their own advantages. However, there is also a feeling that the league should be more sophisticated about addressing its major challenges, particularly the financial ones, rather than incorpor-ating an awkward play-off system for a prize as ostensibly moderate as fourth place.

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I still think the FA Cup winners should get an automatic entry in to the Champions League. At least they have more say over the 4th place team as actually being "Champions" of something!

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I am a Portsmouth supporter and against this idea. We have the largest top tier league in Europe (at 20 teams) and already play more games than the rest of Europe, and now this is being considered?

The issue with the "top four" making the Premier League uncompetitive at the highest level has more to do with capacity of the stadiums, income and the level of debt they are afforded. A club like Man United with 750M pounds of debt needs the Champions League every year to sustain its debt repayments, same with Liverpool. If Liverpool fail to get the 4th spot this season and go out of the Europa League early then we may start seeing the repercussions of that, until that happens I'm afraid the Premier League for everyone else will be all about getting 5th place or European football via other means (Carling Cup, FA Cup, Fair Play League etc).

To think that Pompey lived the dream of an FA Cup win in 2008 and a short stint in Europe has almost cost us the club itself, says a lot about the Premier League and the ability to compete in it for all the other "little" clubs.

I'd be in favour of a two tier Premier League that is seeded and allows relegation (the idea was posed by Gartner of Bolton, but without relegation).

It would make more sense to have two tiers of 18, with the second tier only allowing clubs like Portsmouth to compete in, for example clubs with stadiums under 28K capacity. To compete in the top tier the club would need to meet a certain criteria, one being that it is able to compete against the likes of Liverpool on equal footing. The idea that the Premier League allows clubs to gain so much debt in order to achieve anything is what's currently wrong with it.

To elaborate my idea of two tiers, you could have the 4 champions league spots in the first tier with a play off for 4th (since there are fewer teams) and the 5th placed automatic Europa League spot going to the champions of tier 2 who will then progress to tier 1 if they meet the criteria for competing in it. The clubs already competing in tier 1 and get relegated would go back to the football league "Championship", same with tier 2 relegation.

My idea is all about making the Premier League seeded rather than having what seems to be the grand canyon between the top 4 places and regular mid table & lower teams.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Premier League has revealed it will not pursue the idea of a play-off for fourth place and the final Champion League spot.

At the Premier League's board meeting on Thursday, chairmen decided against looking into the proposal any further at this stage.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal were reportedly quick to voice their opposition.

However, other clubs were keen on the idea in principle.

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