The EPL season is pretty much concluded with just one round to go. Leicester City has already – amazingly – won the league and Aston Villa, Norwich and Newcastle are already relegated. So why is there a buzz about the last day of the EPL?
Firstly there’s bragging rights, one of which was sorted midweek. Football has the fiercest of derbies when it comes to sport. The rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland is no different. Only 20 kilometres apart, the fight to survive and stay in the Premier League went down to a midweek match where Sunderland beat Everton to stay up while Newcastle will be playing their football in the second tier next year.
Much further up the EPL table the two Manchester teams are also fighting to top each other. Currently City is sitting on fourth and United fifth. Manchester United will need to beat Bournemouth and hope City loses to Swansea to reverse their positions.
Then there’s the fiercest derby of all, the North London derby between Arsenal and Spurs. Spurs are currently second in the EPL with Arsenal two points behind them in third. Both teams will be playing already relegated opponents. The Gunners have to beat Villa and look for Spurs to lose to Newcastle.
Newcastle United and their fans are very much wounded animals after the events midweek, and St James Park will not be a friendly to Tottenham Hotspur. Though Spurs are hot favourites according to Ladbrokes, it’s not yet over.
St Totteringham’s day
St Totteringham’s Day is the day when Arsenal fans celebrate the fact that mathematically, Tottenham can no longer catch the Gunners in the League. Usually this is much earlier in the season, but since 1912, there have been nine occasions when St Totteringham’s Day fell on the last day of the season. The last time was just three years ago in the 2012/13 EPL season. Coincidently on that day, it was Arsenal that had to beat Newcastle and they did so 1-0.
How long has it been since Spurs finished above Arsenal? As of this writing and UK’s Telegraph, it’s been 21 years, 5 days, 11 hours, 54 minutes and 23 seconds.
So back to why there is so much interest on the last day of the season; apart from prestige there is the money.
EPL TV Rights
Each club in the English Championship (the second tier of English football) will receive about $4.5 million (Australian). Aston Villa who will finish bottom of the top tier, the Premier League, will receive about $132 million. That is the incentive to play in the EPL.
All the money distributed by the EPL is from television rights. From the 2012/13 to the current season, each of the 20 teams in the competition each year received a guaranteed amount close to $110 million for the season. Over and above that, additional funds called facility fees are paid to clubs for each time their home games is broadcast live in the UK. Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea topped that list with about $43 million each.
The EPL has struck a new TV deal that will increase the amounts paid to clubs substantially. For the next three years, the minimum an EPL club will receive will be about $172 million.
A big part of the money clubs receive from TV rights are spent buying and paying quality players in order to stay in the EPL. When clubs are relegated, this becomes an issue as many of these players will still be under contract. Some of these are sold to other clubs quickly but that is usually not enough. The EPL provides parachute payments system to ease the pressure on these clubs so as they can adjust to the less lucrative environment of the Championship League.
Aston Villa and Newcastle will receive about $206 million each over three years, and Norwich, because it only spent one season in the EPL, will receive about $172 million.
EPL Prize Money
Apart from their TV share and facility fees, there is also the prize money. This is determined by where a team finishes on the EPL ladder. Basically, the prize money increase for each position on the table. This year each position upwards increases by about $2.4 million. Leicester who will top the league will receive about $49 million bringing their total for the season to about $179 million. Arsenal, who will end the season second, third or fourth will have earned between $191 million to $196 million.
For United, West Ham and Southampton how the last day of the season plays out could make a difference of $4.9 million. For West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth, the difference could be as much as $7.3 million. But there’s more.
The top six spots in the EPL are coveted because it could lead to bigger money. The top three places are guaranteed a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage while fourth is guaranteed a Europa League or Champions League group stage dependant on a two-leg play-off. Fifth in the EPL is guaranteed a place in the Europa League group stage while sixth will need to be in a play-off which if won, will also place them in the group stage of the Europa League.
The team that wins the Europa League could earn as much as $39 million, while the winner of the Champions League stands to earn around $156 million. Even losing every game in the Champions League group stage will guarantee a team about $19 million. Manchester City who lost in the semi-finals of the Champions League picked up a minimum of $57 million which could almost double when the TV rights for the competition are calculated.
The Last Day of the EPL 2015/16 Season
Second spot is currently held by Tottenham Hotspur, but a loss to Newcastle and a win for Arsenal will see them drop to third.
Arsenal holds third spot. If they lose and Manchester City beat Swansea, they will drop to fourth with City taking over third.
Manchester City is currently fourth while United are fifth. Unless a ridiculous number of goals are scored by United against Bournemouth, a draw would be enough for City to hang on to fourth, but a lost to Swansea and a win for United will see City finish fifth and United, fourth.
If Manchester City does end the EPL season third or fourth, fifth place becomes a three horse race between United, West Ham and Southampton. With one round to play only three points separate these three.
If United win they are guaranteed at least this fifth spot. If they draw, West Ham could take over with a win against Stoke City. If United lose however, and both West Ham and Southampton won their respective matches, United will be relegated to seventh.
Southampton will need to win and hope West Ham drops points in order to finish above them.
The best Liverpool, who are currently eighth, could do is finish sixth. First they would need to beat West Brom by at least two goals and hope West Ham lose and Southampton drop points.
There is also the possibility of an EPL playoff for sixth if Southampton did drop points and West Ham lost. If West Ham was to lose 1-0 and Liverpool wins 2-1 in their fixture, both teams would be level on points, goal difference and goals scored. The same would apply if Liverpool won 3-2 and West Ham lost 2-1. Other scenarios would follow the same pattern.
Summary: Who from the EPL will make it to Europe
If you’re still reading this article and it’s not done your head in then you obviously understand what makes the last day of the EPL season so amazing. Sixteen of the 20 teams have potentially $2.4 million or more riding on the outcome of week 38.
As for European football, Leicester and Spurs are definitely in the group stage of the Champions League.
Arsenal and Manchester City can join them, but at worse will be in the Europa League group stage.
United on the other hand has everything to play for and their options don’t end tomorrow, but by tomorrow they will know whether they will be part of the Champions League. By tomorrow they will also know if a Europa League place is guaranteed, and if all else fails and United are out of the the EPL route, they could still get to the Europa League by winning the FA Cup next week.
The FA Cup is not just an opportunity for United to get to Europe, but also Crystal Palace, West Ham, Southampton and Liverpool.
For Palace it’s simple, win the FA Cup and they play in the Europa League next season.
As for the other three, they could finish seventh and still qualify for the Europa League playoffs if United ends the EPL season above them and win the FA Cup. West Ham and Southampton though are still able to make the Europa League group stage by finishing fifth in the EPL.
Liverpool too is in an interesting position. They are currently eighth of the EPL table and can make sixth if everything goes their way on the final day. That would guarantee a playoff for the group stage of the Europa League next season, but as it turns out they are already in the final of this year’s Europa League – and they are the favourites against Sevilla. If they win that match they leapfrog the EPL route and will be allocated a place in the Champions League group stage.
So there you have it, just some of the critical permutations for the last day of the 2015/16 EPL season. As it turns out, this year is not just rare for what happened at the top, but also at the bottom. All three clubs that are to be relegated do not have the opportunity of a final day lifeline.
As for Leicester City, champions of the EPL, their opening odds of 5,000 to one was taken up at the start of the season by quite a few “hopeful” Leicester City fans. It is the biggest payout rate bookmakers have had to make in sporting history. That is another reason why it’s called the beautiful game.