Premier League season needs a grand finale

August 14, 2009

The English Premier League has always reminded me of eating out at McDonalds. I always hope for something new but then end up getting the same as last time.

The new season hasn’t even kicked off yet, but if the experts are right, it’s already as good as over for nearly all the teams.

In the past 14 seasons, only three clubs have won the title with Manchester United, the Big Mac of English soccer, claiming nine championships, leaving Arsenal (three) and Chelsea (two) as the Quarter Pounder and Cheeseburger.

In the last four seasons, those same three clubs plus Liverpool, have filled the top four places to qualify for the lucrative European Champions League, leaving the remaining 16 teams* just hoping to avoid relegation.

While the matches themselves are anything but dull, there’s no escaping the growing realisation that the championship is too predictable.

Manchester City loom as the team most likely to challenge the big four this season after opening their purse strings yet are still listed at odds of 15-1 to win the championship.

British bookmakers Ladbrokes are offering odds in excess of 150-1 for any other side winning with more than half the 20 teams at odds of more than 1000-1 and three clubs listed at 10,000-1, about 10 times longer than the odds on Elvis being found alive.

So, what can be done to make the English Premier League title more appetising?

Well, for starters, they could do worse than by looking at two of the world’s most successful sporting countries that turned their back on soccer long ago and embraced more brutal forms of football.

The United States and Australia have both developed their own codes that dominate their domestic markets, captivating millions of people.

The National Football League (NFL) in America and the Australian Football League (AFL, Aussie Rules) and the National Rugby League (NRL) could not be any more different as sports but they all have one common ingredient that ensures their competitions maintain interest to the very end.

All three end their regular seasons with sudden-death playoffs culminating in a winner-takes-all final and the results have provided a smorgasbord of champions.

In the last 14 years, 10 different teams have won the NFL Super Bowl, while another eight have made the final.

In the same period, 11 different clubs have won the AFL grand final while each of the last eight NRL premierships have been claimed by different sides.

Now how much better would the EPL be if they had 14 or 15 teams still in contention for a place in the playoffs with two rounds to go instead of two vying for the title?

And how much interest would there be in a month long series of sudden-death matches that finishes with the last two surviving teams locking horns at Wembley with everything at stake?

The EPL’s first-past-the-post system may have been good fare in the past, but everyone knows it’s always better to save some room for the dessert.

* Amended after slip of the keyboard from Julian (let’s be charitable here) suggested there were 22 teams in the league (see comments)

PHOTO: Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney holds the English Premier League Trophy after they were crowned champions last season, May 13, 2007. REUTERS/Phil Noble


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I totally agree… cudnt have been put much better… But this season wil have smthin differnt with Manchester city spending big!

Posted by manchester city | Report as abusive

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Posted by Premier League season needs a grand finale – Posted In English Premier League | Soccer News Info – Soccer News Info | Report as abusive

“In the last four seasons, those same three clubs plus Liverpool, have filled the top four places to qualify for the lucrative European Champions League, leaving the remaining 18 teams just hoping to avoid relegation”Didnt realise there were 22 teams in the premier league? Think that shows this person doesnt know a great deal about football, the expression ‘if it aint broke dont fix it’ comes to mind when reading this blog. We have possibly the most exciting league in the world, granted spain now has messi, ronaldo, ibrahimovic and kaka but these players are only in 2 teams which will no doubt make there league even more predictable than the EPL. We have some world class players spread out amongst our top four, for example terry, lampard, drogba, van persie, fabregas, arshavin, torres, gerrard, mascherano, rooney, vidic, berbatov, with man city buying a couple of the greedier ones, but over the last few years you will see that any team, bar maybe the newley promoted ones, are able to take a result off anyone else in the league on their day. Fulham beat the world, european and english champions last year to prove my point, i couldnt see espanyol beating real madrid next season, can you?

Posted by maid | Report as abusive

Good point, Maid. Have fixed in the text.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

The reason the league doesn’t have a play-off final is because it is in a format that is designed to find the best team over the course of a season, not the team that did ok over a season and then had a strong/lucky finish.If a team wins the league in the current format it’s pretty difficult to argue against them being the best team.Instead of the play-off format, there is the cup competitions, which allows for more unpredictability. A competition format that isn’t played in either in American football or Australian rules. Perhaps if there wasn’t the cup competitions your argument would make sense, but these completions make it redundant to have a play-off.

Posted by Anthony | Report as abusive

Anthony your spot on. The author clearly wants to see more parity in the EPL (and I suspect in other European leagues, at least I do!) But he’s going about it the wrong way. Better ways to level the playing field are to limit foreign talent, restrict spending to a percentage of revenues, and punish teams with mountains of debt by limiting their buying power. Although, all the cup competitions are tediously boring, so I would like to see them all abolished.

Posted by The Soccer Snob | Report as abusive

Look at Scotland, when was the last time that Rangers or Celtic didn’t win it? Or Spain, Real, Barca or Valencia. Four teams have won the EPL, Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Blackburn since its inception. Three others (Liverpool, Aston Villa and Newcastle United) have gone very close. In the same time, between the cup competitions, there have been at least 10 winners, all from the Premier League.This is how football works. In the early 1980’s, Nottingham Forest won the European Cup back-to-back after winning the league. Liverpool went on to dominate the old 1st Division in that time. Our leagues aren’t built on reasonable parity, they are built on the best winning it and the rest trying to catch them. American sports are designed to be easy on the brain (still laughing at ‘brutal for NFL – more pads than your local loony bin, more rests than a snooker tournament) because the Americans won’t support a team that’s not doing well. Those of us who have stood on a league 2 terrace having forked out £15 of our hard-earned to watch you draw 0-0 with Torquay understand and we also understand how good the cup is, getting on TV and playing the big boys, getting to play-off finals. The EPL still offers that. Fulham will be bringing some of the biggest clubs in Europe to the Cottage this year. Portsmouth may be staring relegation n the face but they won the FA Cup 18 months back. Funny fact: THe best team over 38 games won the EPL last year. Been like that for a while…

Posted by Adam K | Report as abusive

Neat idea, but the writers unfamiliarity with the Premier League, or English football in general, annoyingly glares through.How would the EPL restructure if such a plan were put into play? Currently, each team plays the other 19 twice: once at home and once away. The EPL already had to chop itself down from 24 to the current 20 teams because UEFA said the league was too big and the season was too long. Wouls there be two divisions of 10 teams each? How many teams would make the proposed ‘playoffs’?HOW WOULD RELEGATION WORK? One of the greatest points of the English league structure, which is similar in most European football leagues, is the possibility that a team in a lower division can work hard and move up to the higher division. Would the team with the worst regular season records be dropped down? Possible, but it does not make sense.And the largest point that has not been made yet, THERE ARE ALREADY TWO PLAYOFF TOURNAMENTS in England, and two others in Europe (UEFA CL and UEFA Europa League) that teams compete in. The FA Cup is the oldest still-running football competition in the world. This is structured, more or less, similar to the playoff system that would likely be proposed. If the league were to move to a playoff system, the FA Cup would be pushed even further down the tier and teams would focus even less on this competition. And we have not even talked about the League Cup.Now understand, I am (1) not English, and (2) not in any position to say what should or should not be, beyond the fact that I have been in love with football my entire life, and with the English game in particular, for 17 years. It seems to me that any restructuring would be only be a move to ‘Americanize’ a game that bored, attention-deprived yankees could understand.But it really is simple. Just as was stated here already, and an uncountable number of times when this discussion has been posed before, the Premier League title is won by the most consistent team for the entire 38 game season. The FA Cup is arranged with a tournament system in mind. The winners of these two competitions even face each other every August (the weekend before the start of the the Premier League campaign) as the Charity/Community Shield.If you want more drama, watch a soap opera. If you need it with your sports, get it where you please, but please, leave the real, original football out of the silly arrangements that are only meant to take even more money from the already over-spent die-hards. So Julian, please do your research please, and stick to cricket or rugby or swimming or Aussie Rules and leave the Premier League alone.

Posted by patrick | Report as abusive

i lov chelsea is my main club

Posted by folarin ayo | Report as abusive

see you

Posted by folarin ayo | Report as abusive

I am sick of journalists (who need to fill space) trying to write down the premiership based on a supposed predictability. What is so wrong in the strongest, most consistent winning? This often happens everywhere in football leagues across the world!Until last season, Lyon were seven times Champions of France, wasn’t that a predictable league? Inter have been Champions for 3-4 seasons in Italy and it usually revolves around Juventus, Milan and maybe Roma as champions. In Egypt it is about Al Ahly or Zamalek.It is down to who is better organised and has the best team at a particular period.The final winner is important but in football (domestic leagues) the thrill is based on the games at hand. Fans are excited about what’s going to happen in the next game.Spurs vs Liverpool who is going to win? On the day Spurs may win but Liverpool may end up Champions. That’s one of the things we enjoy about the premiership – not just who wins at the end.If that’s your problem, watch another competition for the next nine months and come back to see who are champions!And if the premiership had really lost taste, it would not be growing in interest around the world as it is.Watch the link below to see how it influences lives in far remote places like Sierra Leone…I bet for all the super bowls and “world series” there are few mini-buses in African villages called Giants because their league has a play-off! Oj7mSj2VYwk

Posted by Isat Feg | Report as abusive

The American NFL and the Australian AFL have the largest crowds per match (only the Bundesliga in Germany is around the same).Given Australia’s population and Aussie Rules being a sport of mainly that one nation (though increasing internationally of late) – that is quite an achievement. Partly it is due to the sudden death playoffs. Partly it is because the game is so full of action it is good entertainment.Many Aussies play Soccer but would prefer to spectate at a game of Aussie Rules.

Posted by ruckrover | Report as abusive

Mercifully, no such thing will happen Julian. Only one soccer league in the world operates on such a competition format, the MLS of course. I think most people in Europe who follow the EPL would resent the mere thought of fixing something that’s not broken just to fit your bill and accomodate your mindset. If you are tired of McDonalds go to Pizza Hut and if you don’t like the EPL as it is, switch to MLS soccer, they have a “great” competition format in which the second-bottom team from one of the conferences won the title last year, I think. We have no ambition of restructuring the “fantastic” competition format of either Aussie rules or the NFL, where a team with an under 50 percent record in the regular season can actually win the title. This is widely seen as absolutely ludicrous among football fans in Europe and for good reason too.

Posted by Love it or leave it | Report as abusive

ruckrover – there are more than 5 times the amount of people in the USA and nowhere near as many teams playing American Football. That’s because if you look at London, there are: Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, West Ham, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers, Leyton Orient, Brentford and Chartlon, as well as a load more below the top 4 divisions and those outlying such as Watford, Wycome and Luton. Manchester have Man City and Man United, Liverpool and Everton (and Tranmere), Birmingham, West Brom, and Aston Villa. There are 92 teams in the Football League. Below that is the Blue Square Premier, then the Conference North & Conference South, followed bya whole host of other leagues.In Football, the Championship (English 2nd teir) had the 5th best attendence of any European league last year, after the Bundesliga, the EPL, La Liga and Serie A, sometimes being MORE than Serie A. We see crowds of 20k+ in Leage 1 (3rd teir) at several games. Aussie Rules is also limited in the number of clubs – if we trimmed down our league structure in-line with the NFL or Aussie Rules, we’d need every club to hae Old Trafford at very least – you’d probably get 120k to the top games every week. Old tafford sells out 75k, the Emerites 60k, and there are rarely any seats available at most EPL grounds. It has nothing to do with ‘exciting’ and everything to do with choice.

Posted by Adam K | Report as abusive

Stop writing blogs if you have no idea about the league or the sport. I wish like many other things ‘I didn’t see this’. If the author doesn’t get the pun then he is ignorant.

Posted by Arsene Wenger | Report as abusive


Posted by brisbane soccer | Report as abusive

I am a big football fanatic and i never missed the EPL indeed there are some favorite sports stars in the teams We have possibly the most exciting league in the world, granted Spain now has messi, ronaldo, ibrahimovic and kaka but these players are only in 2 teams which will no doubt make there league even more predictable than the EPL

Posted by apeterson | Report as abusive