Connect with us

Premier League

Playoffs for the Premier League champion?

Should the Premier League adopt a playoff system to crown its champion?

Embed from Getty Images

The 2022-23 Premier League was decided by five points, with Manchester City winning their third consecutive title. The Cityzens win came just one season after the Premier League title race went down to the final day of the campaign, as Manchester City bested Liverpool by a single point.

The 2021-22 Premier League win came courtesy of a second-half comeback against Aston Villa to overcome two goals, 3-2. The drama on the final day something that is a rarity in the Premier League that fans of all 20 clubs lapped up.

Over in Germany, the Bundesliga championship went to Bayern Munich for the 11th straight campaign. The title win wasn’t certain and only ended up in Bavaria thanks to Borussia Dortmund failing to win on the final day of the season. Jamal Musiala’s late wonder-goal for Bayern saw off a dogged Koln team.

Although the Premier League and Bundesliga featured exciting title races, nothing compared to Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League. After 34 games, the league moved into its championship playoffs, with the top four teams – Genk, Union Saint-Gilloise, Royal Antwerp, and Club Brugge – qualifying for the six-match, round-robin title tournament.

Genk finished atop the standings with 75 points, only ahead of Union Saint-Gilloise, who had the same number of points, thanks to goal difference. Meanwhile, Royal Antwerp had 72 points. Club Brugge were eliminated from winning the title after obtaining 59 points in the regular season, but the Black and Blue could still play the part of spoiler.

The teams’ points were divided by two and rounded up to the nearest whole number. This is common practice in Belgium, but it can also be found in Scotland’s Premiership and Austria’s Bundesliga.

The championship playoffs unfolded spectacularly, and the final day saw Antwerp, Genk, and Union all capable of winning the title. In the end, Royal Antwerp claimed their first Pro League championship since 1957 thanks to Toby Alderweireld’s 94th-minute long-range equaliser. The goal and subsequent 2-2 draw pried the Pro League title from Genk’s hands.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, Union threw away their chance of winning a first league title since 1935. With Antwerp losing and then drawing, Union Saint-Gilloise were on pace to win the title. Leading 1-0 in the waning minutes of the game, Union conceded three times in the final minute, plus stoppage time. The results of the final day saw Antwerp win the Pro League by a single point over Genk and Union Saint-Gilloise.

The final day drama in Belgium was incredible. The title could have gone to three different clubs, but it ended in Antwerp for the first time in nearly half a century. You may be asking yourself, ‘What does this have to do with the Premier League?’ Well, the answer is that it has everything to do with the Premier League’s future.

It isn’t a question of if the Premier League will adopt a playoff system, rather it is a question of when. Manchester City’s recent dominance has left teams fighting for scraps. Not since Manchester United from 2006 to 2009 has a team won three straight Premier League trophies. United also accomplished the feat of three consecutive titles from 1998 to 2001. The three dynastic title reigns of United and City combined for nine of the Premier League’s 31 seasons. Most non-City fans may be tired of the boring outcome of the Premier League title race.

A playoff would theoretically make winning the league title more difficult and add parity to the competition. The English top flight is the world’s most-watched football league. Despite the drama created by the relegation race and the battle for European qualification, many fans – especially those of big clubs – want to see their teams fight for a league title. The Champions League qualification race only adds a certain amount of fuel to the fire of excitement. A four-team or six-team playoff would increase intrigue, as any one of the teams could potentially win the competition.

Of course, there are plenty of fans who oppose the very thought of an American sports-influenced playoff. Sure, a playoff system in which undeserving teams qualify is ridiculous, but having a postseason in which the top-four clubs qualify isn’t a bad thing.

To see just how much English football fans love playoffs, you merely need to look at the Championship, League One, and League Two promotion playoffs. The Football League promotion playoffs are one of the most exciting parts of the entire season. Even Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola raves about the excitement produced by the playoffs.

Now, imagine the top teams in the Premier League fighting for the top prize in the world’s most popular domestic football league. The fight to qualify for a playoff place could see greater competition. It could also eliminate the current “Big 6” although the financial might of the Premier League may create a “Big 8” sooner rather than later.

A hard salary cap like the one seen in the NFL has been floated as a possible way to create more parity in the Premier League. With the growing finance of teams via Petrol States, a hard salary cap is a great start. Yet, a salary cap alone won’t improve the excitement and level of competition. There will be some teams that do not spend to the salary cap limits, while others potentially exceed them and accept their punishments.

A playoff system goes against the very nature of English domestic club football. Yes, fans many hardened fans would rather watch their team miss out on the title than accept such a daft way to crown their champion. Yet, football is full of playoffs, they are just not necessarily called as such.

The Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League are all versions of playoffs. Teams compete in a group stage before progressing to a knockout phase. Those teams that do not qualify for the knockout phase simply go home. Even the FA Cup, the world’s oldest knockout football competition, is a type of playoff.

Would British fans come around to a playoff system? There would be some humming and hawing, but eventually, supporters could see the advantages of a postseason to crown the Premier League champion. British sports like rugby and cricket already have playoffs to crown their champions. So, why not football? With new fans of the Premier League made every year – domestically and abroad – the system would become the norm over time.

Whether clubs would embrace the idea of a playoff system is unknown. But with the prospect to increase revenue and potentially win a league title, there is a good chance clubs would jump at the opportunity of a playoff system. If Man City win a fourth straight league title in 2023-24, the conversation for salary caps and playoffs could increase.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Must See

More in Premier League