Goal difference is no way to decide the league champions

The Airtricity League is Ireland's domestic soccer league and it just doesn't get a lot of love. Although soccer may well be the most popular sport in Ireland, most soccer fans devote their attentions to the goings on in the English Premier League, not the local league.

There probably isn't a whole lot the people who run the Airtricity League can do about this state of affairs, but they aren't above trying different things to generate interest. A few years ago they changed the season from one that ran basically from through the winter to one that runs through the summer. The idea was that Irish soccer would attract more fans to games on warm summer evenings than on cold, wet winter nights.

Here's another idea that the league should adopt immediately: have a one game playoff for the league title if two teams are tied at the end of the season. Last week's exciting conclusion to the season was only marred by the fact that Shamrock Rovers claimed the title by virtue of a better goal difference than the runners-up, Bohemians. That is just plain wrong. And dumb.

Soccer in Europe is structured differently than any American sports league. Here the team that as the best regular season record wins the league. End of story. That's how it should be really. There are no playoffs, no one-off championship to decide who the best is, but rather it's decided over the long season. The team with the most points (or wins) is the league champion.

They don't have loads of division champions, wild card teams, etc. playing a tournament to decide what's already been decided.

However, where soccer could learn something from America is when two teams are tied at the end of the season. Sure, I understand the goal difference, but it doesn't really say much about which of the two tied teams is best.

Last Friday night Shamrock Rovers could only manage a 2-2 tie with lowly Bray while Bohemians were winning their game. Both games were live on tv simultaneously. It was exciting. I'm sure a lot of non-fans tuned in. It was a great ad for the Airtricity League.

It would have been an even better ad for the league if rather than conceding the title to Rovers, the two teams had met for a one game playoff to decide the championship. Maybe it's too American an idea for the league, but they should consider it because goal difference is really a poor way to decide who's best after a long season.

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