LONDON: Manchester United and Arsenal may have to playoff on a neutral venue in May if the English Premier League finishes in a deadheat.
The Premier League said yesterday that if the two sides finish level on both goal difference and goals scored, then they would play a decider.
“Under rule B29, a playoff at a neutral venue would decide the champions,” a Premier League spokesman confirmed. “That rule was written in when the Premier League started back in 1992.”
United currently hold a three-point lead after the two sides drew 2-2 at Highbury on Wednesday, although the defending champions have a game in hand.
Arsenal are one goal ahead on goal difference and six ahead on goals scored.
If they both win their remaining matches, they will be tied on 83 points.
A playoff could be staged at Villa Park on either May 14 or May 21, but either date could have complications.
Arsenal meet Southampton in the FA Cup final on May 17. United could be involved in a Champions League semi-final second leg on May 14 but that depends on them overcoming a two-goal deficit in their quarter-final second leg match with Real Madrid.
Bookmakers William Hill are offering odds of 250-1 on an Arsenal-United playoff to decide the title race.
“A few things have to click into place but we would love to see it,” a spokesman said.
“Wednesday’s match at Highbury was the biggest ever Premiership match for betting. We took £1mil on the game and in the industry I’d expect it to total £6mil.
“A playoff would eclipse even that.”
Playoffs can also be used to decide relegation and European places – but this is not the first time a title crunch has been a real possibility.
In 1996, when United were battling with Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, tickets were even printed for a game at Wembley.
In 1989, Arsenal won the old First Division thanks to Michael Thomas’ injury-time winner at Liverpool.
Arsenal had scored eight goals more than Liverpool – but a playoff would have been used if everything had finished all-square. – AFP