Football is the most popular sport in the world. It has the ability to evoke the whole spectrum of human emotions, to galvanise whole nations to follow a common cause and to create stories which remain part of folklore for generations. It has been my first sporting love for as long as I can remember and has given me some of my most memorable highs as well as some of my most heartbreaking lows. Yet there is something wrong with football at the moment, something seriously wrong.
The sport I love has been in a steady decline for some time now and I feel that unless there is a radical shake up this decline will become terminal. Today the world of football is largely dictated by money and crippled by greed. There are now perhaps only six teams who could win the Premier League within the next ten years and this is being very generous to the chances of Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.
Much more likely is that the next ten titles will be divided between the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea. This is of course barring a billionaire buying a club and bankrolling them to success in the way that Manchester City and Chelsea have done (on a serious note if any billionaire is reading this and looking to buy a club than please buy Leeds United).
This is not how I envision the game to be. In the past, though teams dominated for periods, there was a greater distribution of teams finishing in the top positions in the League. This is not the case anymore. What the future holds is a dominance of around four to six clubs with the rest avoiding the drop or settling for mid table mediocrity. True the cup still provides some magic and gives fans the joy of that Wembley date and true the financial fair play restrictions will help somewhat but these are not enough.
What I propose is a playoff system to determine the title, the final Champions League spots as well as relegation. The final draft would have to be ironed out but roughly it could be similar to the current Belgian system. Perhaps the top six go into a play off for the title, with the top two clubs favoured and also guaranteed the Champions League places. The other two places would go to those who did the best out of the remaining four clubs.
The bottom six clubs would also go into a relegation playoff to determine who retained their Premiership status. This would result in far more clubs having something to play for towards the end of the season instead of pointlessly meandering to another mid table finish. It would also give far more clubs access to the Champions League as well as the title – a dream only a few will ever see materialise in the current format.
One of the main criticisms will be that the current system is a true representation of who deserves to be champions: the team who finish top over 38 games are rightfully deemed to be the best team that season. This may seem straightforward but on closer examination it may not entirely be the case. A team may face other teams at certain beneficial times – for example during a transfer window when a top star has left, during a particularly bad injury crisis or when a team has nothing left to play for.
A recent example of this might be in the case of Arsenal who played an already relegated Queens Park Rangers as well as already crowned champions Manchester United en route to finishing fourth. Arsenal took four points from these two games and this proved crucial in their bid for Champions League football. The playoff proposal will instead reward sides which win the big games when they matter. This would be a better test of a team’s character and would create some of the most intense and dramatic matches of the season.
I know that your initial gut reaction will be to outright reject this suggestion as unfair, to deride it as ridiculous and to stick with tradition. People are generally reluctant to challenge the status quo but think about it for a few moments – Which system is really fairer? Is our current system where the title will be contested each year by the Manchester United Brand and the playthings of billionaires really the best we have got?
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