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Consider this scenario: The top two teams in Premier League are playing their last match of the season, and either team can win the league if they win their match and the other team dont.

Do their opponents have to do everything they can to win, even if they have nothing to play for? Or can they ditch all their best players and not put any effort at all into winning? Are there any specific rules regarding this?

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There are no rules regarding how good you have to play. It's almost impossible to measure or control such things. But people tend not to like you if you do something like that.

To answer on your scenario, it's impossible. Depends on who's playing who, are they in relegation zone? Can they qualify for Europe? Do they play the FA Cup final next week( then you give some key players rest if there's nothing else to gain from the game). Are they rivals? Is the other League winner their rival.

Can't find it at the moment, but their was an instance Marseille supporters demanded of their team to lose because otherwise their rivals would become champion, I think it was for the Marseille-Montpellier game in 2012.

And, it's not that uncommon for teams who have nothing to gain anymore let the other team be. There are a few famous examples. In Dutch there is a word for it, salonremise. Litteraly it means draw, but it's used for not only draws.

The most notorious is the Disgrace of Gijón. It was even after this game FIFA put in place a rule so that the third game of the group stage have to be played simultaneously. West Germany needed a win to continue, and Austria would progress to if they only lost 1-0 or 2-0. West-Germany scored quickly and there after they just passed the ball along. Algeria was the victim of this disgrace.

Other examples:

  • Another good example is from the swedish top tier "Allsvenskan" a couple of years back. In the last game day, Elfsborg were going to be champions if they won their home game against Djurgården. In case of a loss or a draw, AIK was going to be champions (given that they won their fixture). However, Djurgården and AIK are both bitter rivals from Stockholm, so the Djurgården fans were shouting (loosely translated) "Love Djurgården, go Elfsborg". It was simply more important for them that AIK did not become champions, than that they won the game. Just a piece of interesting trivia! – Qvist May 10 '15 at 11:02
  • I want to add that the Dutch word salonremise does only apply to draws. This can happen whenever both teams just need a draw to achieve their goal. This happened for example in the last match of the 2002-2003 Dutch Eredvisie, FC Groningen - PSV. After a dreadful 90 minutes of non-football, PSV became champion and FC Groningen avoided relegation. – Braamstruik May 11 '15 at 7:32
  • In Belgium it's sometimes (mis)used for non draws, the linguistic discussion I'm not going to start ;) – Don_Biglia May 12 '15 at 18:48
  • As of today there is good example currently in UEFA CL as Bayen and Olympiakos both just need a draw to qualify in their next meeting to send Arsenal and Dinamo out of CL... Having Arsenal in last 16 could be a problem for both of them... – Gaurav Nov 5 '15 at 7:01

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