The Premier League (EPL) is the most watched sports league in the world with over 4.7bn viewers per year. It is by far the most popular league in Europe – but why is this?
Some argue that it is the quality of the players, others the notoriety of the brand and still more the style of play.
It is difficult to pinpoint a single reason, but what is for certain is that the Premier League, since its birth in 1992, has been able to market itself better globally than any of its European rivals.
La Liga in Spain may have the “tiki-taka” beauty and the two best players on the planet - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi - but it suffers from a lack of competitiveness that also characterises the German Bundesliga, while Italy’s Serie A is bogged down in corruption.
What could make the league even more popular, enhance its competitiveness and truly separate it from the rest? The answer lies in a playoff system.
Granted, the idea of a playoff is difficult to stomach, especially for die hard supporters, but surely change can be positive? Here is the proposal of how it could work.
The top six teams in the table by a certain date (for example, 15 April) go into the playoffs. The top two would get a bye in order that they can proceed immediately to the semi finals. This would mean that there would still be an incentive to finish in the top two.
Furthermore, the top four teams would still be in the Champions League places meaning that even if teams are safely in the top six there is still motivation to try and proceed to the top four/two. The table (right) provides an example of how a genuine playoff schedule could look.
Each of the quarter finals and semi finals would be two game aggregates as in the Champions League. The final would then be played at Wembley Stadium in a single, winner takes all encounter.
This system could provide an opportunity for new teams to win big rather than live perennially in the mediocrity of mid table. It is worth adding that the “big four” would still have the upper hand due to the strength of their squads, but would this not generate additional excitement with teams trying their hardest to get into the top four and top six placings?
The American example
Major League Baseball (MLB) has a playoff system and no salary cap. It has seen 10 different winning teams over the past two decades. The Premier League, during the same period of time, has had five.
However there is always the chance for a Cinderella story in the Major League playoffs – a team simply has to get in and then there is a chance. With the current league set up of the EPL, there is no chance for any such thing. Less wealthy and established teams do not have the depth of squads that the richer ones possess.
With a playoff one could see an Aston Villa, Tottenham or Fulham win the
League but within the current set up, the chances of any sides other than Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and possibly Arsenal winning the league are next to nothing.
While not everyone will agree that this could benefit the Premier League, proposing such an alteration should provide grounds for an interesting discussion on how the EPL can develop over the coming years, and whether or not it actually needs to.
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