The Premier League is considering introducing a play-off to determine which team is awarded the fourth Champions League slot. As things stand, the top four in the division qualify automatically for the next season’s Champions League. No changes will be made for at least three years: the 2010-13 TV rights have already been sold, and an extra five matches (play-off semi-finals over two legs, plus the final) would alter the nature of any TV deals.
A number of other changes are thought to be under consideration, although none as radical as the so-called 39th game, mooted two years ago then put on indefinite hold after widespread opposition. That plan envisaged an extra game to be played overseas as part of a market expansion plan and was, frankly, nothing that other major global leagues haven’t already done or are doing or would like to do. But vociferous opposition effectively did for it.
Whether the play-offs become overseas games in the fullness of time will be an intriguing sub-plot to introducing them in the first place. The hunch at sportingintelligence is that Premier League games will take place on foreign soil within a decade and quite possibly within five years.
The play-off idea will need at least 14 of 20 clubs to vote for it but it should get that level of support quite easily. Many clubs can aspire to seventh place in their best season (and hence the play-offs), but as things stand the so-called “big four” have a virtual monopoly on the top four slots.