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Premier League play-off idea just not fair

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Michael Gray | 08:15 UK time, Friday, 19 February 2010

Hi, there's been a lot of talk about the possible introduction of play-offs in the Premier League to qualify for the fourth place in the Uefa Champions League but I must say that I don't like the idea.

The play-offs are well established in the Football League and I really don't think they should be introduced to the Premier League.

To me, it wouldn't be fair if your team played a full season of 38 games and finished fourth, but then had to play-off to qualify for the Champions League. I just don't think teams who finish outside the top four should have an opportunity to qualify for Europe's elite club competition.

There is a huge incentive for teams to finish in the top four and players work their socks off all season to get into that position. If a team were to finish fourth and then didn't qualify for the Champions League because they were eliminated in the play-offs it would be very hard to take.

The play-offs in the Football League have brought a very exciting dimension to the game and there have been some amazing matches. If you get promoted through the play-offs and get to lift a trophy at Wembley then it is a brilliant way to go up but there is always the chance for heartbreak too because the play-offs are a bit of a lottery.

Every game is a big one in the Premier League and I think if you achieve a top-four finish then you are entitled to qualify for the Champions League. The teams finishing fifth to seventh in the Premier League have the right to contest the Europa Cup, which is another big competition, whereas in the Championship you don't qualify for anything else by finishing in the top six.

You get the right to contest a place in the Premier League and the losers get nothing so that is a huge difference between the current set-up in the League and the proposals that have been put forward for the Premier League.

In qualifying for the Champions League you are earning the right to play against the top teams in Europe and some of the best players in the world so I think that it would be wrong to take that opportunity away from players who have worked so hard to finish in the top four.

waynerooney595.jpg
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scores against AC Milan during their Uefa Champions League (photo: AFP)

The Champions League throws up some huge games and we saw one of those earlier this week when Manchester United won 3-2 at AC Milan. It was an amazing game from the start and you could sense the atmosphere from watching it on TV. Even the build-up to the game was electrifying and the previews start three or four days before the match - they are major events in the sporting calendar. I had to record the game because we were playing against Doncaster Rovers but I watched the match when I got home and it was just incredible.

The Champions League has got bigger and bigger in recent years and I think that will only continue. The level of performance in all of the games is incredible and every match seems to be eye-catching.

I was lucky enough to be involved in a few Champions League matches when I was at Celtic so I have had a little taste of it. To be involved in those games is something special. To play for Celtic in that competition is something I will never forget - not just the home games but the away games as well. They had something different; there was a sense of being involved in something extra special. Other than playing for your country, playing in the Champions League has to stand out as a career high for me.

We played Anderlecht and won 3-1. As the team walked out at Celtic Park the atmosphere was immense. The atmosphere is always impressive at Celtic but walking out of that tunnel knowing you were going to be involved in a Champions League game produced an incredible mix of nerves and adrenaline. It was an unbelievable feeling and it brings the best out of everybody; not only the players but the fans, and the build-up in the days beforehand has a real sense of occasion too.

Personally, I am not that bothered about watching loads of football on TV every week. Dare I say it, I think there is probably too much football on now. We are probably going to get to the stage where you can watch your own team on TV every single week with the way things are heading. That may be a good thing for some fans but clubs could see a knock-on effect on crowds and nobody would want that.

I always look forward to watching the big games, like when Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool face each other. I guess that's why I love the Champions League too because they always seem to be huge games with the likes of AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona. I never want to miss those games. It's been great seeing the English teams getting into the latter stages of the Champions League too so that has made it even more intriguing. I also got to see Manchester United host Real Madrid at Old Trafford and it was something extra special to watch.

Back to life in the Football League, we are still embroiled in a relegation dogfight at Sheffield Wednesday. The Championship is a fascinating division this year. You can win one week and be looking up at the top half of the table. Then you can lose your next game and you're looking over your shoulder.

When Brian Laws was in charge at the beginning of the season we were within touching distance of the play-off places. Then we went on a terrible run when we struggled to score, let alone get a result, and quickly found ourselves in the bottom three. We fought our way out of that and we know that we will be scrapping until the end of the season. It was great to win five out of seven matches when Alan Irvine first came through the door and we don't want that to slip-up now because everybody is enjoying themselves and our fans have been fantastic.

In this situation you have to do your own jobs first and foremost. We know what our own targets are and how many wins we need for safety but sometimes you can't get away from looking at the league table and seeing how the teams around you are doing. If you tried to steer away from what is going on elsewhere in the division then one of your team-mates would tell you the results so you have to accept that. But our focus is on the job of getting results for Sheffield Wednesday. If we do that then there it doesn't matter what other teams do.

Comments

  • 1. At 08:34am on 19 Feb 2010, LABSAB9 wrote:

    Excellent Blog, totally agree on your 4th place sentiments.

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  • 2. At 09:09am on 19 Feb 2010, JamesD19 wrote:

    Rofl Labs you are first again XD. No matter the time of day you are seem to be first.

    Agree with pretty much everything in the blog.

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  • 3. At 09:11am on 19 Feb 2010, Lordcellmark wrote:

    Great blog as usual Michael. Let's hope Tuesday night was a bit of a hiccup on the way to survival and better things. Keep up the good work with the blog and on the pitch.

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  • 4. At 09:14am on 19 Feb 2010, Cyril wrote:

    I totally agree with you regarding the 4th play play-off. What makes me laugh is the FA always go on about that the Premier League is the best league in the world, yet they suggest ways to change it. If it aint broke, don't fix it.

    The competition for 4th place this season has been the best yet, that's what really baffles me.

    Back to you, wasn't the best of results against Doncaster, but them Yorkshire Derbys form doesn't really matter. Winning ways again this Saturday against the draw kings Ipswich?

    Do you prefer to play at home or away? Home advantage clearly does exsist but why do you think?
    Cause at the end of the day when you're a kid playing Sunday league or whatever it didn't matter where you'd play you would win. Is it mainly the fans that make that much of a difference? I always think that the fans can make it harder by putting pressure on you to get a result.

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  • 5. At 09:15am on 19 Feb 2010, Alex wrote:

    Totally agree with, and although we got promoted a few years back I also think the playoffs should be scrapped full stop. I was there at Cardiff and it was the best match I have ever been too, but I think that as teams who finish third could be 10 points ahead of the team in sixth but sixth place could be promoted. Do you agree with this?

    Also, the sentiment behind the play-offs, ie giving teams such as Spurs, Villa, Man City, Fulham etc the chance to enter Europe's elite competition and get the money is right the play offs are wrong. What do the other players you have spoken to think about the idea and have you heard of any other ways to achieve this?

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  • 6. At 09:23am on 19 Feb 2010, OutsidersPOV wrote:

    Call me old fashioned, but I don't think that teams who finish outside the top one should qualify for the 'Champions' League.
    Having said that, the game is all about the money nowadays, and the play off idea is designed simply to attract more revenue. Is it fair for the team finishing 6th in the Championship to go into the Premier League despite finishing many points behind third? It is unfortunately the way of the game today and I can see this idea happening in the Premier League in the not too distant future. Taking the 'opportunity away from players who have worked so hard to finish in the top four' is debatable; I doubt that the teams that finish 5th - 7th work any less hard, and maybe these teams are just lacking the revenue from a Champions League place to regularly challenge? In order for this to go ahead, 14 clubs need to agree and this could very well happen. I can't think of 7 teams in the Premier League who would be against it.

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  • 7. At 09:28am on 19 Feb 2010, Simon wrote:

    The Champions League should really be for champions; Albeit I concede that the better quality leagues will obviously have a larger amount of top class teams. However, if you look at most other sports, you are rewarded for coming 1st, 2nd or 3rd- gold, silver bronze. 4th is not an achievement that should be praised to the same level as 1st-3rd.

    Also, you say that it would not be fair as the team finishing 4th has worked hard and should deserve the spot. Well look at lesser leagues around Europe where only 2 teams qualify for the Champions League, has the team in 3rd not worked just as hard in this league than the team in 3rd in the premier league?

    Only because we are used to the top 4 teams qualifying does a change make it unfair. It's a privilege that comes with being one of the biggest leagues in the world- and one the 'Big Four' have become too comfortable with.

    In summary, all in favour of the play off competition, I don't feel 4th should be rewarded as much as it is.

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  • 8. At 09:47am on 19 Feb 2010, Gloss wrote:

    Great block as ever Micky.

    Can i ask what you think of the fine impossed on wolves? Do you think its fare that a team can be fined for using there squad? Also does this now open the gates for any team to appeal against Man Utd if say Rooney isnt playing, he is there best player after all, and what about arsenal in the cups? Are they going to be fined for all the times they put a weak side out in the cups?

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  • 9. At 09:48am on 19 Feb 2010, jonny wrote:

    I disagree with the status quo in regards to fourth place. I think if you had playoffs you would be more likely to have English winners.

    To win th CL, you need to be consistent enough to get through the league stages, then have enough "big game" temperament to get through the knockouts.

    How many times have we seen the big English side cruise through the CL league bit, only to fall at the first hurdle? Until maybe a couple of years ago this would describe 8 out of 10 English CL campaigns.

    I think if you let in a team that was OK in the league but suddenly brilliant in a playoff situation (how many times have we seen that in football league?) you'd have team with a better chance in the CL.

    Plus it would make the last few weeks of the season less achingly dull.

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  • 10. At 10:02am on 19 Feb 2010, JamesD19 wrote:

    jonny wrote:

    I disagree with the status quo in regards to fourth place. I think if you had playoffs you would be more likely to have English winners.

    To win th CL, you need to be consistent enough to get through the league stages, then have enough "big game" temperament to get through the knockouts.

    How many times have we seen the big English side cruise through the CL league bit, only to fall at the first hurdle? Until maybe a couple of years ago this would describe 8 out of 10 English CL campaigns.

    I think if you let in a team that was OK in the league but suddenly brilliant in a playoff situation (how many times have we seen that in football league?) you'd have team with a better chance in the CL.

    Plus it would make the last few weeks of the season less achingly dull.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    Surely your idea is defeated by the team that isn't great in a league situation not making it through their group? Especially the contenders like Aston villa, Spurs and Man city who would all have very few if not none European points so would therefore have very low seedings.
    Maybe you could argue that this would mean every game is like a knock out game as it is a big European game but the question would still remain about squad rotation. Without doubt Aston Villa do not possess enough of a squad to contend the Champions League, the Fa cup, the league cup and the Premier League. A few injuries and they wont be able to contend any of them. Even though they have a very good record against the clubs they are competing against for fourth this year. So basically my argument is that they wouldn't make it to the straight knock out stage to display this ability of being great in a playoff situation.

    I'm for keeping it how it is.

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  • 11. At 10:03am on 19 Feb 2010, CJE wrote:

    Like #5 says, slightly hypocritical that you don't want the 4th place team to lose out CL place as seems unfair, yet you think the play-offs for Football League are good idea where 6th place can finish 10-15 points behind 3rd place but get promoted to the Premiership where the benefits are much greater than a 4th place Premiership play-off.

    You can't advocate one and pillorise the other.

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  • 12. At 10:08am on 19 Feb 2010, Smoggy Bob wrote:

    "and I think if you achieve a top-four finish then you should have the divine right to qualify for the Champions League"

    4th place should not warrent a CL Place, in any other sport who cares about finishing fourth. "Wonder who'll be Formula 1 champion this year? who cares i'm wondering who's gonna finish fourth!"

    Last CL spot should go to the winners of the FA Cup. I've heard the argument about only having to win 5 games to win the FA Cup etc... but at least you've won something not just finished fourth.

    Or have a play off for the last CL spot between the League cup winners and the FA Cup winners.

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  • 13. At 10:09am on 19 Feb 2010, JamesD19 wrote:

    OutsidersPOV wrote:

    Call me old fashioned, but I don't think that teams who finish outside the top one should qualify for the 'Champions' League.
    Having said that, the game is all about the money nowadays, and the play off idea is designed simply to attract more revenue. Is it fair for the team finishing 6th in the Championship to go into the Premier League despite finishing many points behind third? It is unfortunately the way of the game today and I can see this idea happening in the Premier League in the not too distant future. Taking the 'opportunity away from players who have worked so hard to finish in the top four' is debatable; I doubt that the teams that finish 5th - 7th work any less hard, and maybe these teams are just lacking the revenue from a Champions League place to regularly challenge? In order for this to go ahead, 14 clubs need to agree and this could very well happen. I can't think of 7 teams in the Premier League who would be against it.

    --------------------------------------------------

    As previous posters on this issue have posted why people think that the challenging teams would be for this idea is possibly flawed. Say Man City invest another 150m to get fourth place. They get fourth place but lose to Aston Villa in the playoffs despite having finished around 12-15 points above them. This is not a good situation for Man City. Similarly this argument can be applied to spurs and Aston Villa so you possibly have 3 clubs that would be against this.

    Then you come to the "big four" who have managed to be in the top four every year. Some posters have argued this would give them extra security for a possible terrible year but history suggests this is unlikely as the year Everton made fourth they were only just ahead of Liverpool. So history would suggest that a terrible year for these clubs in the league means that they still finish in the top four or very very close. If this terrible year meant that they then had to play potentially 3-4(?) more matches even though they have finished so many points ahead again this would not sound favourable.

    So there is a possible rational explanation for seven teams not voting for the implementation of this system. Add in a few irrational votes from bottom clubs who, to be honest, this is likely to never effect and you have 9 possibly 10.

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  • 14. At 10:10am on 19 Feb 2010, NCFC champions 09-10 wrote:

    If you think that the premier league play-offs arent fair, what about football league play-offs? How can a team in the Championship, after playing 46 games, finish 6th place and still go up to the Premier League, over the teams that finished 3rd-5th. Look at Burnley, they finished 6th, got up into the Prem and are now in the relegation zone. If the Prem say no to this play-off, maybe the football league should scrap their play-offs

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  • 15. At 10:14am on 19 Feb 2010, JamesD19 wrote:

    Smoggy Bob wrote:

    "and I think if you achieve a top-four finish then you should have the divine right to qualify for the Champions League"

    4th place should not warrent a CL Place, in any other sport who cares about finishing fourth. "Wonder who'll be Formula 1 champion this year? who cares i'm wondering who's gonna finish fourth!"

    Last CL spot should go to the winners of the FA Cup. I've heard the argument about only having to win 5 games to win the FA Cup etc... but at least you've won something not just finished fourth.

    Or have a play off for the last CL spot between the League cup winners and the FA Cup winners.

    -------------------------------------

    Initially having the winner of the FA get a champions league place seems fair, as you said, at least they have won something. However the winner of the FA cup for the past 12 of the last 13 years (with the exception being portsmouth and look where they are now) have actually made the champions league anyway through conventional league positions. So what then? give it to the runners up? This could have resulted in (recent examples) Southampton, Millwall, West Ham, Cardiff City and winners Portsmouth being in the Champions League. Southampton and Portsmouth were both unspectacular in the Eufa cup/Europa league so it is very unlikely they would make it out the group stages. And for Millwall and Cardiff this is undoubtably amazing for the club but as a nuetral english supporter would i really want to watch an english club get mauled 7/8 - 0 by the likes of barcelona (who they could logically get drawn against)? I would have to answer no i'm afraid.

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  • 16. At 10:30am on 19 Feb 2010, Smoggy Bob wrote:

    Jamesd19

    having 100,000 shares in Millwall i'd have loved to see them in the CL. lol!

    I do take your point with regards to what if one of the Top 3 Win the FA cup. It shouldn't automatically go to the runners up (in the same way the UEFA place doesn't go to the league cup runner up) perhaps it could go then to the League cup winner if they are one of the top three then it could revert to the 4th placed team. At least 4th wouldn;t guarentee you a place but winning something probably would.

    It just irk's me that our 4th place team can qualify at the expense of a country's champions. Depriving that other league of the CL revenue and the chance to improve their league. If the Belgian Champions keep getting knocked out by our 4th placed team then they will never get the revenue they need to improve themselves so will keep getting knocked out by 4th placed teams.

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  • 17. At 10:32am on 19 Feb 2010, Tim wrote:

    I'm with Smoggy Bob on this one - the fourth spot should go to the FA Cup winners, for the following reasons:

    - 4th place in the League simply reinforces the advantage of the big 4 clubs. No matter how good or bad their season, their financial advantage means they'll nearly always have a top 4 finish. And then the Champions' League money means that the gap is even wider the next season. Even Man City are struggling to claim 4th this year. This feedback loop has now made the gulf so wide that even hundreds of millions of pounds can't bridge the gap.
    - The Cup winners, as Smoggy Bob says, have actually won something. A CL spot should not be a loser's consolation prize.
    - There are so many foreign managers in English football who do not understand the importance of the FA Cup and so they field reserve teams. The prize of a CL spot might just focus their minds on a competition that is very important to the fans.

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  • 18. At 10:43am on 19 Feb 2010, OutsidersPOV wrote:

    JamesD19 wrote:
    As previous posters on this issue have posted why people think that the challenging teams would be for this idea is possibly flawed. Say Man City invest another 150m to get fourth place. They get fourth place but lose to Aston Villa in the playoffs despite having finished around 12-15 points above them. This is not a good situation for Man City. Similarly this argument can be applied to spurs and Aston Villa so you possibly have 3 clubs that would be against this.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    To say that Man City, Spurs and Aston Villa would possibly vote against the play off idea because they think they might lose the play off after finishing 4th is ridiculous. These teams are investing huge amounts of cash anyway and the carrot of the Champions League is what they are aiming for. Teams don't refuse to enter the FA cup because they might lose the final!

    Teams at the bottom end of the Premier League wouldn't vote against it either. Those struggling against relegation this year know that they only need a season like Birmingham are having in order to have a chance at 7th. Blackburn, Fulham, Bolton, Everton, even Newcastle and Middlesbrough have all finished in the top 7 of the Premier League over the last 5 years, there is no way any team outside the top 4 would vote against the chance to play in the Champions League.

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  • 19. At 10:53am on 19 Feb 2010, Spartan wrote:

    I must be one of the few people to agree with the Play-Off for the Champions League. We have it in Greece, and it produces some fantastic football matches; all or nothing, do or die. Football is entertainment and, for the neutral, play offs add a little excitement, and reduce the number of meaningless matches at the end of the season.

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  • 20. At 10:57am on 19 Feb 2010, JamesD19 wrote:

    Smoggy Bob wrote:
    It just irk's me that our 4th place team can qualify at the expense of a country's champions. Depriving that other league of the CL revenue and the chance to improve their league. If the Belgian Champions keep getting knocked out by our 4th placed team then they will never get the revenue they need to improve themselves so will keep getting knocked out by 4th placed teams.

    ----------------------------

    That is a great example that I hadn't considered but if we go with your proposed system then we possibly have a weakened team with less ranking points in the system. Potentially this English team would become a pot 4 team (if they have no points is that how it works? or do they take the points of the team they displaced?). If we had a weakened championship team in the competition it would detract from the overall level of the champions league and if this, one year with this system implemented in every other league in europe, then you could have 6/7 division 2 teams in the competition with superpower teams in the europa league. I'm not disputing this wouldn't bring increased revenue for these teams and could potentially bridge the gap but I doubt Uefa would be pleased their elite competition is not being contested by many elite teams which would possible make this idea unimplementable across all other leagues.

    Regarding the FA cup getting the fourth place then maybe the big four would always play their best teams. Also with the FA cup being at a time when the big four(this year just man utd and chelsea) already having large leads and knowing they will be in the champions league whatever next year then it maybe goes down to arsenal and liverpool. So these teams, scared they may not get their champions league spot play their best teams every round meaning that it is likely they will only ever get beaten by another top premier league club so in this respect it can be good. But back to you origenal point about the belgium champions. For liverpool or arsenal to lose they would need to be beaten by (probably) everton, aston villa or spurs. Then it is highly likely you will still be irked because these teams would probably still beat the belgium champions. This is shown by the strength in depth of the english league at the moment when it comes to playing teams of around 3/4th place in champions league spots. This can be shown by Fulham last nght who played magnificently to beat shakhtar who are probably also better than the belgium champions.

    In the one anomaly in recent years, being portsmouth, it is likely even they would still have beaten the belgium champions R Standard de Liège but i concede that is not a definite.

    However another possible flaw to this is that stadard liege would then get even more revenue which would allow them to dominate their league and win it every single year so maybe they would reach knockout stages more often but they would win their league every year. Taking a peak at the Belgium top 3 since 1993/4 their league is dominate by four teams with one surprise package in 2002/3 7 years ago!

    So this argument can go both ways for different leagues. Arguably? the only way to make this fair is if every single league in europe adopted this system. However would anything really change? would surprise teams really make enough money to carry them onto more years of success when it had been shown that to contend for european competitions and the league is extremely difficult for any team outside the top four in basically any league.

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  • 21. At 11:12am on 19 Feb 2010, JamesD19 wrote:

    OutsidersPOV wrote:
    To say that Man City, Spurs and Aston Villa would possibly vote against the play off idea because they think they might lose the play off after finishing 4th is ridiculous. These teams are investing huge amounts of cash anyway and the carrot of the Champions League is what they are aiming for. Teams don't refuse to enter the FA cup because they might lose the final!

    -----------------------------------

    I agree that is possible but I am just trying to highlight all the bad points about the idea that I can think of so that I can be completely pursuaded towards it being a good idea. I do completely concede to your points that it would have to be totally irrational for lower league teams to vote against it. So at the moment, looking at it logically although people seem to be half and half on the idea it is, as has been said ultimately down to the teams and it does seem that, if it is completely ridiculous as you say, then it is a sure thing to be implemented.

    On a side issue regarding this how would Uefa view this? Would they support this idea? If they are completely against it are they able to veto it?

    The previous comment said it happened in Greece and it is viewed as a success and if it does prove to be a success here should it then be implemented in other places such as Spain, Italy and Germany? I don't know, what does everyone else think?

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  • 22. At 11:27am on 19 Feb 2010, wednesdaymorgs wrote:

    Hey Micky,

    For me the problem with the top four is the fact it is always the same top four. Whilst this year Liverpool have had a relatively poor season, they are still sitting in fourth place ahead of Man City, Villa and Tottenham, all of whom have given it a really good go. Whilst you may think it's unfair to allow anyone else but the team in fourth to qualify for the tournament, the financial benefits that come with it essentially allow an advantage which other teams cannot compete with thus allowing the same top four teams every year to return to the competition. Many are against the playoff idea as they don't like the idea of fiddling with a league which already works well however, as you rightly point out, it certainly adds excitement at the end of the football league and has allowed teams such as Burnley and Hull to gain promotion to the Premier League, a feat they otherwise were unlikely to have achieved. So if the team in fourth is really deserving of that final champions league place they can fight it out for three more games and prove they really are worthy. If they fail, it allows another team a chance to step up, ply their trade at that level and perhaps use the extra finance to close the gap on the team in third. Failing this, giving the final champions league place to the winners of the FA Cup would certainly add an extra dimension to that tournament and allow the prize to be open to all teams in the football ladder not just twenty of the premier league. I'd prefer the former as the FA Cup already has it's own magic but imagine the end of the season having the FA Cup final, the Champions League final and playoffs for all the professional divisions in England to look forward to. Would be a great few weeks.

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  • 23. At 11:32am on 19 Feb 2010, JamesD19 wrote:

    I'd prefer the former as the FA Cup already has it's own magic but imagine the end of the season having the FA Cup final, the Champions League final and playoffs for all the professional divisions in England to look forward to. Would be a great few weeks.

    ----------------------

    Another devils advocate comment about this point. It looks a good point but the feasibility here could potentially come into question. What if the team in fourth who deserved their place through the league are also in the final of the champions league and FA cup. This would cause a few weeks with about 5 games all against top quality opposition. As arsene wenger said recently playing the top teams in a row is the hardest thing you can do and it could be argued that playing a team that has just lost the fa cup final and champions league final would be so demoralised(ala beyern leverkusen (sp?) they would not be able to compete properly so could get beaten by a weaker team.

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  • 24. At 11:42am on 19 Feb 2010, wisepranker wrote:

    4th place makes a team "Champions" of what, exactly?

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  • 25. At 11:50am on 19 Feb 2010, JOrme wrote:

    Your arguement does not make sense. In one instance, you say that a Play-off makes for exciting viewing and creates a feel good factor for teams in the Divisions below the Premiership, if they get promoted. Then you state that a team that finished 4th, who dont then qualify for the Champions League, are hard done by. What about the team in the Championship who finished 3rd and then lose out to the team finishing 6th, even though after all league games, they might have finished 10-15 points clear of them?? Arent they hard done by because the Premiership offers so much money to clubs?

    The Play-offs in the Football Leagues havent always been around, so why cant an opportunity be offered to other Premier League teams to break the monopoly of the top 4? I'm a Man United fan and while it would be very dissapointing not to make the Champions League on the back of a Play off lose, it then offers the likes of Spurs, Man City and Aston Villa the chance to play against the best in Europe and generate some wealth.

    If Play-Offs are good enough for the Championship, with all the Premier League money at stake, why arent they good enough for the Champions league spot? Lets get some variety back in the Premiership!

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  • 26. At 12:31pm on 19 Feb 2010, The_Spongeman wrote:

    I don't agree with this article. Surely the argument against working hard for the 4th place applies to teams finishing 3rd then not getting promoted? I'm sure there are many examples of a team finishing a long way ahead of others in 3rd then not getting promoted which would be equally unfair.

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  • 27. At 12:42pm on 19 Feb 2010, tigershuffle wrote:

    Its already been pointed out by many of the Prem League members that it is unworkable. The majority of Prem League teams boast international players. Every other year is either Euros or World Cup finals....There isnt a space in the calendar to fit this proposal in.

    Ludicrous suggestion brought about by think-tank members justifying their remit to try and increase revenue!!
    As a Hull City fan the only play-off i would welcome is changing 3rd from bottom playing 3rd from top in a home and away play off or a one off game at Wembley.
    Last year would have seen Newcastle play Sheff Utd - Repeat for each division including 2nd from bottom in Div2 with Blue Sq Premier 2nd place

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  • 28. At 12:58pm on 19 Feb 2010, joe strummer wrote:

    The opening few paragraphs are complete contradictions. How is it any different to the Championship play-offs, which is, ironically, Michael Gray's best chance of playing in the Premiership again.

    Sure it would be hard on 4th place, but they'd know the rules before they started. Much in the same way as the team that finishes 3rd in the Championship know that they'll face the lottery of the play-offs.

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  • 29. At 12:59pm on 19 Feb 2010, exiledpolishrover wrote:

    Michael, are you brave enough to debunk the myth that journeymen players coming to the end of their careers, such as yourself actually care about the business they are working for -in your case SWFC?


    Of course customers expect you to swear undying love for the club, how fantastic the support is and how desperate you are to get higher in the league.

    But the reality is those who are soon to leave a business in nearly any industry really couldnt care less, and in your case you already cynically trying to start a media pundit career.

    If you really want a media career why not quit the BS and tell it how it is?

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  • 30. At 1:08pm on 19 Feb 2010, cjn102 wrote:

    I'm a big fan of the FA Cup winners getting a Champions League spot, I've been suggesting this for years! The key thing is if they have already qualified on league placing then it should revert to 4th in the league NOT go to the cup runners up.

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  • 31. At 1:38pm on 19 Feb 2010, collie21 wrote:

    I am for play offs for the top 6, bar the champions to qualify. No reason why second and third should qualify automatically. Its the champions league, they are not champions. The qualification should be automatic playoff in all countries, for teams not champions. Life is tough, you don't always win, if you are good enough to be in 4th after 38 games, prove it with 3 more. Otherwise stop you whining and get on the with the toughness of life. Sorry but thats my view. As for two cup competitions? It would make more sense for each league winner even division 1 to qualify as they are champions of a league... 2nd and 3 rd are champions of nothing. What it would give you is that the lower teams would qualify, get experience, get cash, and be able to be a force in the new league. It would balance out the leagues in years to come

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  • 32. At 1:40pm on 19 Feb 2010, collie21 wrote:

    to number 29 ex polish rover, I reckon you can make that call, the day you walk up to your boss and tell him how full of bs he is and publish a blog or letter saying how full of bs your own career is............ No? Didn't think so!

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  • 33. At 1:44pm on 19 Feb 2010, Amanbro wrote:

    My proposal:

    Top 2 PL teams automatically qualify for CL.

    FA cup winners get next spot. This will reignite the FA cup which has all but lost its appeal with big teams fielding weakened sides. If the the winners are one of the top two then 3rd team in PL gets the place.

    Playoff between 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th teams. Two legs 4th v 7th and 5th v 6th. Winners play in a final one off match to decide final CL place.

    All 4 teams have achieved something over the course of the season. Arguments for PL and FA cup champions are obvious (as they are champions!). I suppose 2nd placed teams are next best. Playoff winners demonstate ability in a knockout format.

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  • 34. At 1:53pm on 19 Feb 2010, mackemwonder wrote:

    Would you have felt the same about playoffs when you finsihed 7th 2 seasons running with our wonderful Peter Reid led team?

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  • 35. At 1:53pm on 19 Feb 2010, william wrote:

    Smoggy Bob you talk about belgian champions being knocked out of the champions league by the 4th placed team. well uefa introduced the champions qualifying where the champions of each country play each other and a qualifying round for teams who finished 2,3 or 4th. so the only way 4th place would knock the belgian champions out is in the group stage when they have gained good revenue and they can then build on it the next few years

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  • 36. At 2:04pm on 19 Feb 2010, s6petetheowl wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 37. At 2:08pm on 19 Feb 2010, william wrote:

    people who want the play offs for the top of the league lets be really radical and have one for who goes down. lets have 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th playing off to see who goes down.
    15th vs 18th
    16th vs 17th
    play each other home and away and then the two losers play home and away to see who gets relegated.
    i wonder how many premier league clubs would vote against this

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  • 38. At 2:11pm on 19 Feb 2010, Fiftiesowl wrote:

    In response to No 29, Michael Gray may well be a 'journeyman' but if so I hope we have many others like him playing the game. To me he is a talented player, deserving of the living he has made from the game and well respected by the fans and fellow players alike. His columns are always interesting and well thought out,much appreciated by readers for the insight into the game. If this is a prelude to a future career then best wishes to someone who I think really does care.

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  • 39. At 2:16pm on 19 Feb 2010, Nick wrote:

    If there is a play off for the Champions League 4 place then why not have a play off at the bottom of the PL to see who goes down. It could be like the play offs in reverse. The bottom 2 down automatically and then the next 4 or 8 teams have a play off to see who goes down with the losers progressing through to the finals instead.

    Yes I know that is a daft idea but so is a play off for the 4th CL place. Why not go all out and do what they do in Rugby League. The top 6 play off to see you are the champions!!

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  • 40. At 2:32pm on 19 Feb 2010, David wrote:

    As others have said, the Champions League should be that, just for Champions. OK I know it's all about the money, but still, come on, do we really need some of these games?
    I also agree with you about the play-off idea for the CL being a crazy idea, but then again, so is the League play-off system. You have teams who could only scrape 7th in the league, getting a day out in the sun and going nuts about lifting a trophy at Wembley. What did they win? A tin pot for coming 3rd! WOW - not even the winners of the league get that accolade.
    Football has been broke (metaphorically and financially) for years. It needs changing, it needs fixing, and adding the play-offs for a Champions League spot is not the answer.

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  • 41. At 2:40pm on 19 Feb 2010, Looking forwad to Yeovil away Blade wrote:

    blades fan 'ere, fantastic blog Mr Gray, agree with everything you say there and i genuinely hope the owls stay up for the immense derby games we see, good luck for the rest of the season!
    UTB!

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  • 42. At 2:49pm on 19 Feb 2010, Gloss wrote:

    No.29 exiledpolishrover wrote: Do you have sort of personal grief with micky? looking at your previous posts you have referred to him in past posts that would be a fair assumption. Does he know your wife ha

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  • 43. At 3:14pm on 19 Feb 2010, Mikey wrote:

    Well Ive just read that due to poor performances by Scottish teams in Europe we will lose a spot in 2011 and more importantly the champion will have to qualify through the 3 rounds for the group stage. I find this a joke.. A championship winner having to qualify through 3 rounds so England, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia can all have 4 or 3 teams each..

    Uefa are needing to stop messing about and make a league for these countries and have a euro comp for the remaining countries..

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  • 44. At 3:18pm on 19 Feb 2010, Rich_Owl wrote:

    MG,
    Good blog - nice to get a players perspective on these types of ideas, rather than the money men.
    Personally, I'm against the playoffs in all forms, despite the fact we've benfitted from them. It's inherently unfair that you play a league competition over the course of the season with the idea that your final place in that league represents how good you are relative to the other teams. Those at the top are better at the game than those as the bottom. What playoffs do is state that even after an entire season, you can still recieve a prize (whether it be promotion or a CL spot) despite being worse at the game than possibly up to three other teams, which strikes me as being a little unsporting.
    With respect to the CL playoffs in particular, the idea that it 'spreads the wealth' is flawed. If a teams spends normally and gets into the CL, they get a massive finacial windfall, say £60m. If they spend all of that on world class players on world class wages and then fail to qualufy the next season (likely, given that only three qualify automatically), then they are financially in a mess. If they spend half of it on new players, and don't qualify the next year, then they're OK but then they are stil not competing with the likes of ManU, Chelsea and ManC. Effectively it doesn't bridge the gap unless you a) spend sensibly and still manage to qualify every year until you've got level with the spending power of Chelsea/manU, or b) risk spending the lot in the first season (Leeds, anybody). A single season in the CL doesn't help anybody in the long term.
    The arguement that it makes the end of the Prem season more exiting is also flawed. Yes teams in 6th, 7th and 8th will be fighting harder, but those (better?) teams in 4th and 5th, who can't get into the top 3 but can't finish as low as 8th, will be playing dead games and resting their better players, so you still get dead games where both teams ha ve liitl eto gain, especially if said teams are in the latter satges of the FA or Europa Cup or CL.
    Finally, when are the games going to be played. Assuming they have to after the FA Cup final and CL final (Sat 15th May and Sat 22nd May this year), the first set of games would realistically have to scheduled for at the earliest Tues/Weds the 25th and 26th, with any side in the playoffs and CL final playing on the wednesday (still a bit harsh - and what would happen if they won the final and as such had qualified as of right for next seasons competition), the finla could then not be played until Sat 5th June, one week before the start of the World cup. So no room this season. What would they do? Start the season at the end of July to make sure there's space for the playoffs?
    To me it's an idea which is designed purely to generate extra income despite the practicalities of such a system being entirely unrealistic.
    Rant over. Sorry.

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  • 45. At 3:24pm on 19 Feb 2010, Jimmy Ellis wrote:

    another good blog!

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  • 46. At 3:24pm on 19 Feb 2010, Rabster wrote:

    I just do not believe in play-offs. A league is a league, a cup is a cup.

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  • 47. At 3:26pm on 19 Feb 2010, horgan88 wrote:

    Excellant blog and I honestly hope you get a full time contract on here when your playing days are over because you offer much more than most of the others on these blogs - bbc or skysports!!

    BUT don't you think that by introducing a play off format where 5/6th play 1 game, then the winner plays the 4th placed team at the 4th placed team's ground?

    Not only would this increase the excitement BUT with the 'top 4' so far ahead financially (except tottenham and man city I suppose) this could also offer parity for clubs like everton and villa to reach the top 4's income and thereby increase the class in their squads in order to make the league more competitive?

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  • 48. At 3:44pm on 19 Feb 2010, collie21 wrote:

    After reading the comments I agree a play off for the relegations would make the league far more competitive than a play off for the promotions and champions league spots. Everyone would play out of their skin to avoid it.

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  • 49. At 3:46pm on 19 Feb 2010, Olive Groove wrote:

    I totally agree with you Michael, but for another reason.
    Introducing Champions League playoffs is a bad idea because it could potentially risk England’s 4th qualifying place for the Champions league.
    We have 4 places allocated to us because England are currently ranked as one of the top three UEFA coefficients (statistics used for ranking and seeding teams in club and international competitions), along with Spain and Italy.
    England used to be fourth in Europe, behind Germany, which meant we only had 3 qualifying places (imagine that now?!). This was until English teams started performing well in Europe.
    If we had a playoff system its conceivable that the 7th best team in the Premiership could get into the CL, which would probably lead to an early exit for said team. Look at Everton when they finished 4th (and fully deserved CL their place) – they didn’t make it to the group stages (which means less coefficient points for England). Poorer performance from English clubs could mean we drop down the coefficients table and loose our 4th place.
    So ultimately there could be no need for a playoff because we would not have a 4th place anymore!
    Love the blogs, good luck on Saturday – 3 points please!

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  • 50. At 4:10pm on 19 Feb 2010, malaymac wrote:


    Another great article MG.

    Looks like this one has definitly got a few people motivated to write back judging by the extensive, well thought out replies.

    #29, get a life.

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  • 51. At 4:23pm on 19 Feb 2010, STELLA LOVES MILAN wrote:

    Great read Micky. Interesting read on the Champions League stuff even though I do find a lot of the games boring and too hyped up. Just two quick questions regarding my beloved Owls: firstly, since Alan Irvine arrived how have the training sessions changed (if they have) as winning five out of eight games is a massive improvement. And secondly, how has the new boss lifted the players from the the doldrums?

    All the best for the rest of the season!!!! UTO!!!!

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  • 52. At 4:31pm on 19 Feb 2010, pieeater2010 wrote:

    So why not argue to scrap the rest of the playoffs? It's not even proposing a playoff to win anything, just for a runner up.

    Playoffs bring excitement. You know what's needed to win at the start of the season. It's the same for every club in the league. Bring it on.

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  • 53. At 4:40pm on 19 Feb 2010, James Wiltshire wrote:

    the premierleague is arguably the best league in the world, why mess with a winning formula? if it ain't broken, don't fix it

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  • 54. At 4:50pm on 19 Feb 2010, loveblister wrote:

    Great Read MG, Annabels is reopening in sunderland this weekend so no doubt you will be picking up an injury, ive heard youre opening it?

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  • 55. At 4:55pm on 19 Feb 2010, Stephen Bullard wrote:

    Great Blog, as usual, and spot on with thoughts on C/L Play Off; as a Blackburn Rovers Fan, even if we had a great season and finish 7th, it is no way to finish the season. 3rd/4th Place (as long as we qualify) should be the Final Result, after all the season should, in my view, be measured on the whole season. I still think that the FL play-offs, whilst great for TV and the winners are wrong. Yes they finish off the season well for the winners and a day out at Wembley, but it is still a rotten place to lose, and the thought of spending another year in the same league, will feel most people with dispair!

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  • 56. At 5:07pm on 19 Feb 2010, Sir T. Fireball wrote:

    You're normally spot on Micky but even as a Weds fan I can't agree with your argument about the CL play off. You seem to be suggesting that finishing third in the championship is less of an achievement than finishing fourth in the premiership, and suggesting that we should try to preserve the elite status of the 'champions' league as the best of the best - surely the premiership is the best of the best in England? I'm in favour of the proposal purely because anything that redresses the unfair balance of power in the premiership is a good thing in my book.

    Back on to more important matters, can we have three points on Saturday against Ipswich and make Keano chuck his toys well and truly out of the pram?

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  • 57. At 5:26pm on 19 Feb 2010, Neil wrote:

    It's terribly arrogant of Michael Gray and every single commentator on this issue to even begin discussing it without reference to the following aspect of Champions League qualification.

    On the day Scotland's co-efficient has been reduced to the effect that only one of the top two of the SPL will qualify for the Champions League, is it outwith the realms of possibility that the co-efficient of the Premiership could be reduced by even one place? Surely not, considering Liverpool's failure to qualify for the knockout stages and with Porto now favourites to prevent Arsenal reaching the quarters. A basic assumption of introducing a play-off system for fourth place but one which has been lost in ignorance is that English teams will always do well enough in Europe to guarantee four places in the Champions League.

    Regardless of any implications of a play-off, the fact that no-one at the Premier League, or anyone seeking to boost their own credibility by making what they hope is a valued judgement on the topic has mentioned any sort of contingency plan should England's co-efficient be reduced to three simply serves as evidence of English football's unilateral belief that it is invincible. Would it not be deeply satisfying for anyone not holding this belief to see the Premier League sanction this change only for the Premiership's co-efficient to have been reduced by the time it can be enforced at the end of the current TV deal, rendering all debate on the play-off futile and evident only of English football's deep-rooted arrogance.

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  • 58. At 5:38pm on 19 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    I'm amazed at how little credit most give the team that finishes 4th. All I could see happening is what Scotland has had happen. After say 2 seasons of play-offs and say Spurs and Villa going through, they would just remove one of our CL spots. Maybe thats what some people want.

    No surprise that people like Harry Redknapp support this guff. Saves him having to beat the top 4 and would provide him with more money to splash about but, Like it or loathe it, the top 4 are just that, why allow lessers to qualify if they can't even finish 4th. Awful Awful idea.

    I'm very much in favour of teams getting a fair share of money be it CL or otherwise, but this is most definetly not the right way to do it.

    What's next Gold in the Olympics for 1st, Silver for 3rd and bronze for 6th.

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  • 59. At 5:39pm on 19 Feb 2010, wednesdaymorgs wrote:

    Neil, whilst I presume you are a Scot and therefore understandably unhappy with today's news, I imagine that should your scenario occur the playoff would be between the teams in 3rd and 6th instead. The introduction of a playoff would therefore never be made redundant just adapted to fit the number of European Champions League places available.

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  • 60. At 5:45pm on 19 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    wednesdaymorgs what about when England gets reduced to 2 qualifiers???? Or can you not see what Neil was writing about? Or maybe you believe seemingly the same as the FA do and, no matter who they send to the CL they will keep the same co-efficient. Yea right.

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  • 61. At 5:59pm on 19 Feb 2010, Neil wrote:

    Wednesdaymorgs,I have no doubt that this would be the case if England's co-efficient was reduced, but that you are the first to mention this contingency or any other provision for this circumstance only exposes further the ignorance/arrogance/both mentioned previously. Notice that all comment on the topic is with reference to a play-off for "fourth place" and moreover the general purpose behind the play-off system is to break the monopoly of the "big four" not the "big three".

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  • 62. At 7:21pm on 19 Feb 2010, ot wrote:

    good blog

    the only reason that i can think of that a premiership play off might be a good thing is to give other sides a chance to knock out one of the so called big 4, which in a play off they might just do. By doing so someone else can then earn the big money that the champions (it isn't) league generates and, over many years, some semblance of competition might actually return to a division that becomes more boring season by season. The so called challenge this year by other teams will almost inevitably fade away by season end, more's the pity, and even if it doesn't this year, which 4 teams will everyone predict will finish in the top 4 in season 2010/11?

    I am stunned that anyone thinks that the champions (it isn't) league is worth watching, footballer or not. It's the most boring spectacle known to mankind with an ever decreasing chance of anyone outside a select group of clubs winning it. Where's the competition, the surprise, the chance of someone else winning? Nowhere. What's the point, other than to generate ever increasing amounts of money for corporate clubs and corporate players with image rights and more money than Croesus. They're all going to form their own league anyway, I just wish they'd hurry up and do it and leave the rest of us to enjoy some proper sport, some proper competition, some proper entertainment.

    If you want that, go and watch the Championship with its proper trophy, it's competition, the ability for team 20 to beat team 1, home or away, it's endeavour and industry, excitement and entertainment and fun; or go and watch divisions 1 and 2 or the blue square thingummys; anything other than the overpriced, styleless, uncompetitive nonsense of a product that is the premier (it isn't) league or champions (it isn't) league.

    And yes i'm a capitalist and yes I support a yo-yo championship team and yes i am old enough, thank the lord, to recall a time when the foremost league in this country produced European champions with great regularity but was also consistently competitive during a season. Will those times return? Not until they all naff off into their own little bubble with Sky and the rest of them. I can't wait

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  • 63. At 8:48pm on 19 Feb 2010, kirstie wrote:

    Na im fed up with the big 4, i would like to see a play off in prem league, no complaints on tues we were beaton by the better team just glad billy blunt didn't score. UTO.

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  • 64. At 9:46pm on 19 Feb 2010, boddz1 wrote:

    I totally disagree with number 29. There is nothing wrong with somebody who is still playing football commenting on football. Fool.

    Anyway I have to say the idea of the play-off in the premiership is interesting. Although I would also prefer to see the winner of the FA Cup getting the final champions league place.

    As a Sheffield Wednesday fan I obviously know that the play offs are the best way to win something. Whether you deserve it or not. They are also a heartbreaking thing to lose in. But that's football.

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  • 65. At 00:05am on 20 Feb 2010, Erdles - Only One Aaron Ramsey wrote:

    Why should the Premier League be looking to the Championship, the Greek league (with its average attendance of under 8000) or a failed experiment in Holland for format changes, when it has the most successful footballing product in the world?

    The current system works, and the Top 4 aren't untouchable by any means. Liverpool & Arsenal have had disasterous seasons in recent years; the reason they haven't been usurped yet is down to the inconsistency & lack of quality of the pretenders. Just like this season... a poor Liverpool side on the ropes will probably get 4th under the noses of 3 well-funded sides that seem pathologically incapable of stringing together a good run of form.

    The system's fine...

    #43: It isn't the big countries that have taken Scotland's 2nd CL spot, it's Belgium. Their Big 3 is smaller than the Northeast's Big 3...

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  • 66. At 03:17am on 20 Feb 2010, malaymac wrote:


    Hi Mickey. As a Sunderland supporter over many years, I've been there to see you enjoy the benefits and suffer the heartaches of play off games. So I guess, you've got your own unique experiences to call upon and you're in a good position to offer an opinion.

    I'm one of those that already believes there's too many teams in the CL. It's no longer a CL if it's full of runners up and the new proposals would most likely dilute the quality even further. It's all become/becoming rather meaningless.

    If these proposals get the go ahead, then it will be interesting to see how can they can organise the fixtures. An even longer season or more fixture congestion perhaps ?

    For what it's worth, I don't like the play offs (whether it be to sort out who goes up or down) as the season is already long enough to justify those end results. If you're team can or can't do it over nearly 40 games then surely we've all seen enough to know who's good and who's not.

    For me, the final positions and placings after all regular fixtures are completed is good enough. All other games are grossly unfair on those that finished higher but lost out in the play off lottery.

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  • 67. At 03:58am on 20 Feb 2010, Neil wrote:

    i ;ove the penia chat#

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  • 68. At 06:47am on 20 Feb 2010, aloopa wrote:

    This is poorly written and full of logical fallacies. Regardless of whether you think there should be a playoff for the 4th Champions League spot, you should protest the BBC's passing off of this kind of amateurish commentary as significant editorial content.

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  • 69. At 08:53am on 20 Feb 2010, s6petetheowl wrote:

    Alreet Mickey,

    Firstly id just like to say to #29 exiledpolishrover that Michael Gray is a model professional from what I see of him week in week out at Sheffield Wednesday. Always giving 100% to our survival battle. I think the fact that he came out top in the bleep test when Irvine first came in shows he's still committed to playing to the very best of his ability, not just coasting into retirement (which I hope won't be for another season or two yet Mickey?)

    Now onto more pressing matters Michael, my son Morgan has asked me to ask you, who has the best car at S.W.F.C?

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  • 70. At 10:01am on 20 Feb 2010, marajonna wrote:

    surely the playoffs would be put in to help the rest of the league, a league that is so badly in need of change if any new teams are going to challenge for the title. man city have been bought buy the richest people in the world and that's not brought immediate success, ok it probably will in the next few years but is that what it takes to overturn the top four? villa and tottenham while getting plaudits for doing well and using english players are both spending fortunes as well, it's utter madness at the moment.

    scotland lost a place because for the past years rangers and celtic have been rubbish, this is fair on the rest of europe. for the past few years english teams have been great and so we have 4 teams in the CL, while creating more exciting european games it's decreasing the quality in european leagues. we keep getting stronger and in doing so we're making others weaker. it's just a choice of whether or not we care enough about other countries leagues and if we can eak out an ounce of altruism from the premier league. i doubt we can but getting 1 or 2 of our lesser (but still amazingly well financed) clubs into the cl will make our league fairer, more exciting and ultimately worse. if spain and italy do this then perhaps we can have some other countries winning the champions league.

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  • 71. At 10:14am on 20 Feb 2010, exiledpolishrover wrote:

    In response to No 29, Michael Gray may well be a 'journeyman' but if so I hope we have many others like him playing the game. To me he is a talented player, deserving of the living he has made from the game and well respected by the fans and fellow players alike. His columns are always interesting and well thought out,much appreciated by readers for the insight into the game. If this is a prelude to a future career then best wishes to someone who I think really does care.

    -----------------------------------------------------

    To all replies, you all rather missing the point. I wasnt deriding MG's right to earn a living or his talents.

    He could well turn round and say ' I disagree, I'm really committed to SWFC, but I take your point there are X Y Z players who really didnt put it in' Fair enough.

    Those on this pages need to get real- being employed as a footballer doesnt suddenly endow someone with commitment and dedication!

    If we have to opportunity to debate with a player, surely its more interesting to have some mildly controversial stuff rather the usual "oi, mickey just thought i would say your great!' yawn yawn.

    For the record, my wife doesnt know who MG is although she is partial to Jose Mourinho.


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  • 72. At 10:19am on 20 Feb 2010, BigEarsforKEEPS wrote:

    This whole concept of a fourth place play-off is ill thought through. AT present the 5th place team qualifies for the Europa league the additional 2 places in the Europa league go to the League cup winners and the FA cup winners. Over the last few years these competitions have been generally won by the big 4 enabling the places to be handed to 6th and 7th position in the premier league.
    Just imagine this season Liverpool finish 4th, Man City 5th, Villa 6th and Tottenham 7th, Villa win the league cup and Stoke the FA cup. The playoffs are held and Tottenham win the play-off final. Would Liverpool receive the 5th placed Europa spot leaving Man city with nothing after their great season or would Liverpool be left with no European football after finishing above Man City, Villa, Spurs and Stoke!
    Another daft idea not properly thought through befroe someone promotes it, when will they learn not to mess with a successful formula.

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  • 73. At 11:16am on 20 Feb 2010, johneboy1886 wrote:

    I don't believe winning a cup should guarantee European football. You should be rewarded for how well you perform over 38 games when each individual game means something. Look at some of the starting 11s that clubs have put out in the cups this year, they barely resemble reserve teams. Some clubs would rather get knocked out than have a replay, so it shows how important they are. The league position is all that matters and people in favour of the play offs or CL place for FA Cup winners just want rewarded for not putting the work in over the season.

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  • 74. At 11:36am on 20 Feb 2010, vedrancorlukamodricardovilla wrote:

    Michael - thanks again for the excellent blog.

    As a gambler, I'd like to know your views on away trips in the lower leagues: do you think a long coach trip to somewhere like Carlisle makes a difference to a team's performance?

    Does Wednesday have a comfortable coach?

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  • 75. At 11:39am on 20 Feb 2010, vedrancorlukamodricardovilla wrote:

    polish:

    "...in your case you already cynically trying to start a media pundit career".

    This is the part of your comment that is objectionable.

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  • 76. At 12:44pm on 20 Feb 2010, telemonster wrote:

    Surely, you either agree with playoff's or you don't..? How can you say 'these playoff's are ok, but I don't agree with these other playoff's'? That's ridiculous! Personally, I believe the whole 'playoff thing' is BS. A team plays 40-odd games, finishes 3rd in the table, and then the team that finished the season 3 places, (and 10 points?) behind gets promoted in their place...? How can you condone that? And then say they shouldn't have playoffs in the PL for a european spot? Doesn't add up.
    All playoffs should be scrapped, with automatic promotion/relegation between the divisions for the top/bottom 3. We might as well scrap the season and pull names out of a hat! But there wouldn't be any money in that, would there...?

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  • 77. At 5:44pm on 20 Feb 2010, Guadalmar wrote:

    I don't know where to start - I disagree with virtually the whole article. As many posters have already pointed out, to agree with play-offs in the Football League but cry foul when they are suggested for the Premier League smacks of hypocrisy.

    'To me, it wouldn't be fair if your team played a full season of 38 games and finished fourth, but then had to play-off to qualify for the Champions League.............Every game is a big one in the Premier League and I think if you achieve a top-four finish then you are entitled to qualify for the Champions League. '

    Why wouldn't it be fair? Again, as many have pointed out, why should finishing fourth entitle a team to compete with Champions? Perhaps if there was a danger of ending the season in the play-off zone, they would then compete more aggressively for 3rd place - after all, the rules are the same for every team at the start of the season. As for every game being a big game in the Premier League, you could have fooled me! There are plenty of meaningless games and the play-offs may marginally reduce this number by actively involving 10-14 teams instead of 8-10.

    'The teams finishing fifth to seventh in the Premier League have the right to contest the Europa Cup, which is another big competition......'

    Another big competition? You wouldn't have believed it to see the reaction of those associated with Liverpool - they reacted to being dumped out of the group stages of the Champions League as if they'd been relegated.

    'The level of performance in all of the games is incredible and every match seems to be eye-catching.'

    Again, it seems to be a bit of a rose-tinted view of a bloated competition that invariably generates plenty of dead rubbers by the end of the group stages. For every AC Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United there is an APOEL, Unirea or Debreceni - no disrespect to these teams but they are not the pinnacle of football Uefa would have us believe.

    For somebody who was something of a journeyman footballer Michael Gray seems in awe of the big money cartel that has dominated English football for the past decade. It's getting stale and is already financially volatile - I suspect things will be changing over the next few years.

    Still, good luck to Gray at 'ambitious' Sheffield Wednesday.

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  • 78. At 6:10pm on 20 Feb 2010, Friendlycard wrote:

    My view is that play-offs are simply wrong - in the championship, for instance, how can one justify a team finishing 6th getting promoted over a team which finished three places and perhaps 10 points ahead of them?

    This said, if the EPL does go for a fourth-place play-off, I wouldn't let 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th contest it - I'd have 4th, 5th, 6th and the winners of the FA Cup. 7th isn't as creditable as winning the Cup.

    Of course, it's all about money, so that's why they'll go for play-offs. If the EPL is still run the same way in three years' time, I bet the play-offs are held in places like Dubai.

    In any case, shouldn't the 'Champions League' be exactly that - just the champions from each country? Again, money talks louder than football....

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  • 79. At 7:47pm on 20 Feb 2010, Rob Earnshaws' left boot© wrote:

    Quote Michael Gray: "To me, it wouldn't be fair if your team played a full season of 38 games and finished fourth, but then had to play-off to qualify for the Champions League."

    I have to say what a load of old tosh the WHOLE playoff thing is, never mind just for the majority of the overrated Premiership sides, this also goes for the football league. A team plays what, 40+ games, is good enough to finish third and then has to play in play off's to get promoted? It is total rubbish, you finish third you should get promoted likewise in the Prem, you are good enough for fourth you are fourth, end of. There is one reason for playoffs, and one reason only, M-O-N-E-Y!!

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  • 80. At 9:04pm on 20 Feb 2010, TheWalrusandtheNasriator wrote:

    Let's face it, this idea is all about getting Man City, Spurs, Villa or Everton into the Champion's League via the back door. So if you want to see things mixed up a bit then you'll be all for it, but if you want to preserve the integrity of the league then you'll be against it. All these arguments that this will tackle the perceived lack of importance of many mid-table league games are missing the fact that if you are 5th or 6th with 3 games to go you won't bother going for 4th as it confers very little advantage with a play-off system. Hence we'll get dead rubbers just as before, and the league finishing position will become less not more important.

    As for making the FA Cup more prestigious - how about a separate trophy for the winners of domestic cups accross Europe. We could call it the Cup Winner's Cup... Stuff of fantasy I know but still...

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  • 81. At 10:45pm on 20 Feb 2010, Gill Edwards wrote:

    I totally agree if it aint broke then dont fix it. I have always thought the play offs in the championship were unfair too. And btw I wish we'd kept you at Wolves last season we certainly missed you.

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  • 82. At 8:59pm on 21 Feb 2010, global_citizen wrote:

    i believe a really good solution would be for the 5th and 6th sides to have a play off and the winner to play the 4th side for a CL play off

    that way finishing 4th would give a small advantage in that they would only have 1 game to play as opposed to a SF as well and the gap in standard between 4th and 6th should not be that big - for example tottenham, man city & liverpool currently...

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  • 83. At 10:03am on 22 Feb 2010, Adrian wrote:

    er..... you do realise you are saying that play-offs are ok for lower leagues many teams in which aspire to get to the premiership.

    then when it comes to the premiership you advocate no play offs.

    does not compute. :)

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  • 84. At 12:34pm on 22 Feb 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    Great blog again, Michael, and I also agree with your views regarding the play-off question for the Premiership.

    Personally I'd rather see the FA Cup winners get the 4th spot, as they can rightly call themselves champions of something. Plus it might reinvigorate that competition that many clubs now consider an annoying distraction rather than a cornerstone of our nation's football history.

    Good luck for the rest of the season anyway, it's still incredibly tight in the Championship and I'm sure it will go down to the wire again. For sheer excitement and unpredictability it's safe to say the Championship puts the Premiership to shame.

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  • 85. At 2:07pm on 22 Feb 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    Playoffs are in general a poor idea if you ask me (despite us maybe benefitting this season from them).

    Any idea that could potentially reward a poorer team over a better one is ridiculous. Same goes for cup winners getting the 4th spot, you would be rewarding a team for winning 6 matches and over half of those could be against mediocre teams from lower leagues.

    The current system is right as it is in the EPL and the only playoff I would like to see anywhere else is "Prem 18th vs. Champ 3rd" for the final EPL place with the same occuring for divisions below as well.

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  • 86. At 3:46pm on 22 Feb 2010, Dean Lovell wrote:

    Last season a difference of 19 points from 4th to 7th, v unfair on the team finishing 4th who may have spent alot of money to break into the elite group. What strategy do teams adopt at the start of the season do they cut back on spending trying to break into the top 3 and target 7th as we all know play offs are a lottery and form can go completely out of the window. The play offs would maintain more interest in the league however this is glossing over the real issue which is clubs spending and running up huge debt. I would prefer the adoption of a 3 foreigner rule and a return to the old system of only champions of the country entering the European cup. Clubs wages bills should also be capped at 50% of income. These steps would help make the league more competitive

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  • 87. At 9:28pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 4

    To be honest I like both.

    Its great when you are winning every week at home and you get that great buzz of performing well in front of your home fans, but that also goes for your away results aswell.
    At my age its just great to be playing and enjoying every minute of it.

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  • 88. At 9:31pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 5

    I would say most players and managers would agree with me.

    As one person said in a reply, If it aint broke dont try and fix it.

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  • 89. At 9:39pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 7

    I can see where you are coming from but in the case of the premiership wich is one of the best leagues in the world, If not thee best.

    The top 4 deserve to play in the champions league. If it was just the teams that won the league they were playing in, the champions league games wouldnt last to long and we would all be missing out.

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  • 90. At 9:44pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 8

    Its a tough one for me to answer really.

    If a team changes the whole eleven players there has to be a good reason behind it.
    Squads need to be used over a full season but to throw them all in for one game is probably not the right thing to do.
    I know it was against man utd but you ask any player if they want to play against the big teams and they will all say yes.

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  • 91. At 9:50pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 12

    Winning the FA CUP could be the answer instead od fourth place.

    Maybe it would bring back that bit of spark that seems to be missing from the competition these days.
    Just a thought but im sure teams would try just that bit harder to win it.

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  • 92. At 10:00pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 29

    You seem like a nice person!!!

    I am a very proud englishman who has played over 500 games now, I play the game because i love it.

    Not for the money or the fame.

    I have given my all for every club i have played for and will continue to do so.
    Age is just a number to me and i will play as long as i want to.

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  • 93. At 10:02pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 32

    Just read your reply and thankyou.

    Totally agree with what you say, topman

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  • 94. At 10:05pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 34

    You have to earn the right for the cl places and as much as i want to agree with you it wouldnt of been right for that to happen.

    Two amazing seasons though.

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  • 95. At 10:07pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 38

    Thankyou for your comments.

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  • 96. At 10:08pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 39

    That sounds like a good idea but would the managers agree with us???

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  • 97. At 10:10pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 41

    Thankyou.

    I must admit it is a great derby to play in and long may they continue that way.

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  • 98. At 10:13pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 43

    Teams like Celtic and Rangers need to be in the champions league.

    The atmosphere at their games is fantastic.
    It would be very unfair on them.

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  • 99. At 10:17pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 44

    HaHa, It was a very good rant though. Alot of thought has gone into your reply.
    The last thing we want is burn out of our top players going to the world cup.
    Lets keep the players fresh and we have a great chance of bringing home the world cup.

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  • 100. At 10:20pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 47

    You have 38 games to fight for the right to finish in the top 4,
    Personally I think it should always stay that way.

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  • 101. At 10:24pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 50

    Just reading through them all now. Its great when you get so many replys.
    No 29 must have had a bad night but Im a big boy now and can take things like that on the chin.

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  • 102. At 10:26pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 51

    Training has been great and the lads are enjoying every minute of it with the new manager.
    We have had a bad week result wise but things are still on the up and we need to stay posotive.

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  • 103. At 10:28pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 54

    You heard wrong then.

    I didnt even know it had closed in the first place.
    Im sure you will enjoy yourself if you go.

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  • 104. At 10:36pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 69

    Haha that would have to be me.... There is a few nice cars at the training ground though. JJ has got the worst car. No electric windows and still plays cassets.

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  • 105. At 10:40pm on 22 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 74

    Most teams travel the day before games to get the journey out of the way and so they can relax in the hotel with no distractions.

    Our coach is lovely. Everything on there apart from beds but im not complaining.

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  • 106. At 00:00am on 23 Feb 2010, exiledpolishrover wrote:

    Michael- I refer you to 71 which makes clearer the comments of 29.

    You may well disagree. Welcome to blogs where it isnt just mutual back-slaps all round!

    However, the point remains valid- there is a finite appeal for blogs where said footballer gives his tuppence on weeks events, and comments along the lines of 'oi mickey, your great you are!' follow.

    Look at arguably one of the most successful footballer turned media pundit- Stan Collymore. What you think of him and his off-the-field past is largely irrelevant. He's outspoken, controversial-but excellent comercially for TalkSport . He isn't sat on the fence dishing out platitudes.

    Fans on the whole have unrealistic view of footballers -they aint super human and its a job. Unexpecting undying devotion to the club and hammering those who want to take better opportunities down the road - Owen Coyle a good recent example of that.

    You as a seasoned pro have surely have a view on that. One thats more interesting than the usual.

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  • 107. At 1:34pm on 23 Feb 2010, Chris wrote:

    Agreed totally with everyone else who says that the 4th spot should go to the FA Cup winners.

    Football is about winning, or at least it used to be, and the FA Cup winners deserve a greater reward than a team who finishes 4th in the league. It would also instantly bring back the lustre of the cup, with no team daring to field a reserve side where the reward for winning five or so matches is both the old trophy and, more important nowadays (sadly), the chance to win £20 million in the CL.

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  • 108. At 9:05pm on 23 Feb 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 107

    The biggest reason I do this blog is for the childrens hostpital.

    I could easily keep the fee for myself but thought I would try and make a diffrence.

    They need as much support as we can give them and this is my way of giving something back.
    I have been very fortunate to have had a great career doing something that I love.
    I understand people can sign into the blog and say what they like, As you have.
    But please let me be the one to call time on my career.
    I take what you said on board and thankyou for replying.

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  • 109. At 01:06am on 24 Feb 2010, malaymac wrote:


    Well said Michael.
    I'm not sure how many readers would be aware of your arrangement with the BBC and the childrens hospital. You kept that quiet for quite a while.
    So again, it's full credit and big applause to you for trying to do something positive.

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  • 110. At 3:48pm on 26 Mar 2010, Jostein Time wrote:

    Going back to the original point, I'd hate to see a play-off system for fourth place. How gutted would you be if your team had slogged their way through a long and hard Premier League season, only to have to play MORE games to confirm your rightful finishing spot! It's ludicrous!

    Love reading the blog Michael. I'm a Sheffield United fan and saw you play us in the first derby this season. I didn't realise it was you at first. You seemed too quick for a t'old lad ;)

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