Premier League season needs a grand finale
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