Football News

Premier League confirm ‘head-to-head’ rule introduced as potential table tie-break

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 17:54, 15 July 2019 | Updated: 9:36, 21 December 2021

The Premier League have confirmed that head-to-head records will now separate teams who are level on points, goal difference and goals scored at the end of the season.

The previous rule dictated that teams who were level in these three fields when competing for the title, European qualification of relegation would be pitted against each other in a play-off game to decide a winner.

Major rule changes next season: 5 things to know…

  • Of course, the biggest change next season is the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
  • Attacking players are no longer allowed within a yard of a three-man defensive wall from a free-kick.
  • The ball is now live the moment it is kicked at a goal-kick – previously, it had to leave the 18-yard box.
  • If the referee is about to book a player but the attacking team takes a quick free-kick, the referee can delay the booking until the next stoppage.
  • Substituted players must now leave the pitch by the nearest point on the touchline/goal line, rather than walking to the dugout.

An official statement released on states that this extra game is now ‘less likely’ with the addition of this rule.

Of course, there are still possibilities that the head-to-head will not be enough to separate two sides either.

In this case: “If clubs still cannot be separated, the team who scored the most goals away from home in the head-to-head matches will get the highest position.

“Only if the clubs remain level in the table after this will a playoff be arranged, at a neutral ground, with the format, timing and venue being determined by the Premier League Board.”

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Reacting to last season?

This rule change seems quite bizarre: besides, there is yet to be a play-off game in Premier League history under these circumstances.

However, last season was the first time that this dramatic decider became a possibility (albeit remote).

If Manchester City lost by four goals to Brighton and Liverpool drew to Wolves whilst scoring the same amount of goals as Brighton (e.g. Brighton 4-0 Man City, Liverpool 4-4 Wolves) then a play-off game would have been implemented to separate the sides.

As marvellous as that would have been for neutrals, the Premier League have decided that this scenario should only be a last resort.