Play-off plan will not include Wembley
Published 15/05/2013 | 16:41
Premier League chiefs will draw up contingency plans this week for a possible play-off between Arsenal and Chelsea but Wembley Stadium is unlikely to be pencilled in as the venue.
If the two London clubs finish the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored, a play-off will be necessary to decide third place and the automatic Champions League qualification spot.
That scenario could happen if the Gunners win 2-1 at Newcastle and Chelsea draw 0-0 at home to Everton, or any scoreline where Chelsea draw and Arsenal score two more goals than them and win by the odd goal.
The problem for the Premier League would be where and when to play such a match and officials will start planning for such an event, while hoping the results on Sunday do not present them with the headache.
The league carried out similar contingency planning back in 1996 when Manchester United and Newcastle had very similar points and goals totals going into the last few matches of the season, and even booked Wembley and printed some tickets for a possible title play-off. In the event, United went on to win the title by four points.
This time, the demands on Wembley means fitting in a play-off may prove impossible - the Champions League final and Football League play-off finals are already booked there, plus England's friendly against the Republic of Ireland on May 29.
A more likely venue would be West Ham's stadium but there are possible fixture clashes as Chelsea have an end-of-season tour to the USA to play two friendlies against Manchester City next week. However, it could be that the Premier League insist that a play-off takes priority.
There are also England friendlies to consider - as well as the Republic of Ireland match England then travel to Rio de Janeiro to play Brazil on June 2.
Neither Chelsea nor Arsenal would want the season to stretch into June but the play-off regulation is part of Premier League rules.
They state: "If at the end of the season... the question of qualification for other competitions cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, timing and venue of which shall be determined by the board."