Relegation fight may extend EPL season for 1st time

LONDON • The Premier League season will extend to a 381st game for a relegation play-off between Swansea City and Hull City, staged at a neutral venue, should they finish joint-18th, level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

Hull are 17th in the table, two points above Swansea, with three fixtures left for both clubs. Swansea's goal difference is -29 compared with Hull's -31, and the Welsh club have scored four more goals.

Should those records be identical at the end of the season, the Premier League would take the unprecedented step of organising a one-off match in line with the rules laid out in its annual handbook to decide which club retains its top-flight status.

Provision has been made for that sort of scenario on two occasions, albeit never before in relation to relegation, where the financial ramifications are so much greater.

In 1996, tickets were printed for a play-off between Manchester United and Newcastle United to be held at Wembley in what would have been a title decider had they finished level. United ended up winning the league by four points.

Discussions were also held with Arsenal and Chelsea on the eve of the final round of fixtures of the 2012-13 season.

Then, there was a possibility that both clubs would finish the season tied for third, with automatic Champions League qualification at stake.

On that occasion, Chelsea finished two points ahead of Arsenal.

It is understood the Premier League has not yet taken the step of consulting with Swansea or Hull over the prospect of a play-off match, though the possibility of both teams' 39th game has been considered by senior club staff.

Sunderland, with 21 points from 34 games, were relegated last week. Middlesbrough are 19th, with 28 points from 35 matches.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Relegation fight may extend EPL season for 1st time'. Print Edition | Subscribe