Is it possible to change the current format of the FA Premier League?

The current format of the FA Premier League

The current format of the FA Premier League is that it is a 20 team league with each team playing every other twice – once home and once away – resulting in a total of 38 games played by each team. The team that finishes with the most points will be crowned Champions.

Champions League places

The top four teams in the final league table will all qualify for the UEFA Champions League with the top two automatically qualifying for the group stages whereas third and fourth place must go through a qualifying round.

Europa League Places

The teams finishing in places from five to seven will qualify for the Europa League.


As the FA Premier League is modeled upon the European Model of Sport they operate a system of promotion and relegation with the teams finishing in the bottom three positions relegated to the Championship to be replaced by three teams from that league.

Is it possible to change certain aspects of the current format?

The FA Premier League is consistently evolving and can be subject to change, for example since its inception the number of teams has been reduced and the number of Champions League places has been increased – although this is down to UEFA.  However, certain things like the fact that teams cannot be relegated will not change due to the European model of sport requiring this.

More recently there have been two proposals to change the format of the league in order to potentially increase the competitiveness. They are as follows:

  • To change the last Champions League spot from fourth place to a play-off between the teams finishing in places 4 – 7

  • To increase the number of fixtures played to 39 including one round of games played outside England


The division below the FA Premier League – the Championship runs a similar system for the last promotion spot whereby teams play a two legged semi-final and the winners of the semi-final meet in a showcase final. This has proved an extremely exciting prospect which increases the competitiveness of the league right until the end of the season. It is for this reason that it has been mooted as a potential idea for the FA Premier League as it may break up the monopoly on the top four places experienced over the last few years. This idea has however; been widely criticised and considering the competiveness of the most recent Premier League season looks unlikely to gain any momentum.

The 39th fixture

This was an idea which was first announced as a possibility for the Premier League in 2008 with plans to introduce it for the 2011 season.

How would this work in practice?

This seems a strange notion as the current 38 game season means that each team will play each other twice and so is perfectly fair. If a 39th game was to be introduced it would potentially cause problems with having to play a team 3 times when you only play the others twice. The decision on who plays who would be decided by a random draw with the games being scheduled to be played in January.

Where would the games be played?

When the initial idea of the 39th game was first introduced it was stated that the games would be played all over the world with the countries wishing to host the games bidding for the opportunity to host them.

What was the main reason for this idea?

The main reasoning behind this idea was that the FA Premier League would be able to make huge sums of money from selling the overseas television rights. Due to the way the television rights are sold by the FA Premier League – collectively – this would mean that all the clubs competing in the league would stand to make huge sums of money out of it.

Would football be the first sport to adopt such a proposal?

The FA Premier League would not be the first league to adopt such a proposal as it is a system which is currently run by the NFL in America. For example games are often played at Wembley Stadium which not only generate huge amounts of income for the league and the teams but also for the locality where the game is played.

What would be the advantages of adopting such a proposal?

The following have been stated as key advantages for adopting such a proposal:

  • The money the league can make due to overseas television rights

  • The money the clubs can make due to overseas television rights

  • The income which can be brought into the area hosting the match

  • The possibility that people from all around the world will be able to see players and matches whom they would never otherwise get the opportunity to do

What would be the disadvantages of such a proposal?

The following have been stated as key disadvantages of adopting such a proposal:

  • It may alienate the already existing fans who pay huge sums of money to watch all their team’s games

  • It will affect the integrity of the league

  • It will also affect the competitiveness of the league – if a team battling for relegation is drawn against a team at the top of the league whereas another team battling for relegation gets an easier draw it would put them at a competitive advantage

  • It may adversely affect the league of the country hosting the 39th game

  • It may cause players who already play too many games in a season to “burn out”

Is this an idea that is likely to come into play?

When the idea was first stated by the FA Premier League it came in for immediate criticism from both relevant football governing bodies in the shape of UEFA and FIFA. Indeed FIFA felt that the proposals may have an adverse effect on England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup – as a consequence of this statement the Football Association also distanced itself from the proposals.

This makes it look like an unlikely scenario to happen, however, with the huge potential to make money it is likely to again be thought of as a possibility for the Premier League.