By Nick Teale
Arsène Wenger believes that proposals to introduce a play-off for England's fourth Champions League place are a "very bad" idea - because there is no guarantee that the Premier League will be awarded a fourth slot every season.
At present, the top four finishers in the Premier League enter Europe's premier competition. However, if 14 of England's 20 top-flight clubs accept a new proposal, the teams who finish from fourth to seventh could compete for the final berth via a mini-tournament.
But Wenger argues that England's co-efficient* could drop if a lower-placed team reaches the Champions League via a play-off but is eliminated early on. That could result in the Premier League losing its final Champions League slot, rendering the play-off pointless.
"It [the play-off] is a very bad, bad, bad proposal," he said. "Why should you question after 38 games what has been decided on the pitch?

"Who guarantees you the fourth spot is available for the Champions League? Nobody. Tomorrow the Champions League rules can be changed and you have created a play-off situation with no object anymore. Why? Nobody knows if the fourth spot will always be available.
"You only have the fourth team as well because you have a strong co-efficient in Europe. The biggest danger for that coefficient to drop is that the seventh team finishes in the Champions League and your co-efficient drops because you go out of the Champions League early and you lose the fourth spot.

"I just feel if you look objectively at the whole situation it is ridiculous because it is a rule that you do not master domestically. You could have a play-off one year and the next year without the play-off because the fourth spot is not there anymore.

"So that rule would not anyway be definite because it doesn't depend only on the domestic rules. It depends on the European coefficient and on the European rules. Why should you create specially a domestic rule for something which is not definite?"

* UEFA works out coefficients based on each club's performance over the last five seasons in Europe. This determines seedings for the Play-Off and Group Stage draws for UEFA competitions.
Europe's footballing governing body also calculates league coefficients based on the performance of clubs from each country over the last five seasons. This determines how many places each nation gets in European competitions.
As things stand, England are top of the current league rankings and so will have four Champions League places and three Europa League slots for next season.

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19 Feb 2010