When was the three-points-for-a-win system introduced into football?

Three points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a defeat is something that the modern generation of football fans, worldwide, take for granted. However, awarding three points for a win, rather than two, is a recent innovation in the history of association football. The idea was not adopted by FIFA and UEFA, for World Cup and European Championship qualifying, until 1994, but had been put into practice by the Football League, in England, in 1981.

The three-points-for-a-win system was the brainchild of the late Jimmy Hill, a influential figure in English football, best known as a presenter and analyst on ‘Match of the Day’, but also manager, managing director and, eventually, chairman of Coventry City Football Club. Hill had argued, for years, that awarding just two points for a win provided insufficient incentive for teams to play attacking football and try to win matches, rather than settling for a draw, which was worth just one point less. Fast forward four decades and the efficacy of the three-points-for-a-win system remains open to question, with teams more likely to adopt negative tactics, once ahead, rather than going all-out to score more goals. This was famously true of Greece in the 2004 UEFA European Championships. Will bets for the Euro 2020 competition be largely centred around ‘negative play, or goal scoring giants I wonder.

Odds for Euro 2020 are available online for football fans to sink their teeth into Currently France are favourites to win (at 5-1 at time of writing) , with England second favourites at 11/2. It has to be said though that historically England are always on the stingy side when it comes to betting odds because without exception a lot of patriotic betting takes place regardless of the merits or otherwise of the team chosen.  Of course the points system can play a part in who emerges from their group. England has a tantalizing and tough group alongside Croatia, the Czech Republic, and of course Scotland.

It could be argued that changing to a three points system to encourage positive play has not totally upended outcomes when compared to the former two point system. In fact since its introduction the only Premier League winner who wouldn’t have won under the old system is Blackburn Rovers in 1994-5. Under the previous system Manchester United would’ve won. It would’ve been a close call though, as both teams would’ve been on the same amount of points and it the deciding factor would have been a superior goal difference by United.

Prior to his death, Jimmy Hill was long been seen as a ‘character’ and personality of the sport, but it’s surprising that not everyone knows that he’s responsible for the three point system. The next time you hear his name mentioned, perhaps share this interesting fact about the man!