'Compelling title race a relief for Premier League'

'compelling title race a relief for premier league'

Manchester City are two points above Arsenal heading into the final game of the season

This weekend will be the 10th time that the Premier League title has been decided on the final day of the season.

But rarely before will those in charge of the competition have been so grateful for a captivating conclusion to the campaign.

Liverpool’s challenge ultimately faded, scuppering their fans’ dreams of a triumphant farewell for departing manager Jurgen Klopp and the prospect of an unprecedented three-way battle going the full distance.

But Manchester City or Arsenal will be crowned champions in the final act of what has been a classic duel.

Sunday may not provide the unforgettable drama of 2012’s last day, when Sergio Aguero’s stppage-time winner sealed a first Premier League title for City. But whether it ends with a record fourth consecutive title for the champions or a first in 20 years for Arsenal, league bosses, broadcasters and neutrals will have the special finale they hoped for.

Off the field, however, these have been troubled times for the top flight.

The points deductions handed to Everton and Nottingham Forest this season for breaching financial rules have been hugely contentious, the punishments - and subsequent appeals - leading to uncertainty over the league table, resentment by fans and fears that the relegation battle could be decided by the rulings of commission panels.

While both teams have ultimately stayed up, the controversy surrounding the profit and sustainability regulations (PSR) is not going away.

Newly promoted Leicester City have been charged with breaking spending rules when they were in the top flight (and are now taking legal action against the league), while Chelsea have also been under investigation.

And 16 months after City were charged with more than a hundred rule breaches, a hearing in their case is not thought to be scheduled until the autumn, contributing to the mounting scrutiny of the league’s governance and processes.

While City deny wrongdoing, a sixth league triumph in seven years would only intensify questions over the time the case has taken, and whether the club’s wealth has distorted the competitiveness of the league.

Meanwhile, a split has emerged between clubs over plans to introduce a new spending cap, and the Premier League is facing the threat of more legal action from one of its members over amended rules around associated party transactions.

As if all that was not enough to contend with, the league’s chief executive Richard Masters has also warned of the “unintended consequences” of the forthcoming independent football regulator, amid mounting criticism of the failure by his clubs to agree a new financial settlement with the English Football League (EFL).

The Premier League is also known to be deeply concerned about the increasingly congested calendar, with Masters recently warning of a “tipping point”, after criticism following the scrapping of FA Cup replays.

With the title race going right to the wire, Sunday’s final-day drama will provide a welcome distraction from such matters for Masters and his colleagues - but, one suspects, only a temporary one.

Clock ticking for Commonwealth Games

A few weeks ago in Birmingham, Katie Sadleir, the head of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), told me that any further delay beyond May in announcing a host for the 2026 event would be “very problematic”.

Since then Glasgow has emerged as a possible back-up option if no replacement is found for Victoria in Australia, which pulled out last year, plunging the event into crisis.

But there has still been no official announcement by the CGF.

Insiders claim they remain hopeful a host will be confirmed in the next two weeks, but the clock is ticking.

Super League heading stateside?

The National Rugby League (NRL) season kicked off in the US for the first time in March, with a Premiership double-header staged at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas as part of a multi-year deal designed to grow the sport in the US.

So could Super League clubs follow suit?

Talks have taken place over the Club World Challenge being staged in the US, and some Super League bosses are keen on regular season matches being part of the tie-up too.

Wigan and Warrington played each other in Milwaukee 35 years ago, albeit as an exhibition match. And with rugby league currently ‘re-imagining’ itself as part of a 12-year deal with agency IMG intended to boost its appeal, anything seems possible.

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