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What can we learn from Germany?

Monday 30th January 2017
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the English football league system and whether it needs reshuffling or not. This came to the forefront earlier this week when, on Talk Sport, some obscene suggestions were being talked about such as relegating five teams per season in order to make every game count and gifting the FA cup winner a place in the Champions League.

While these ideas clearly would never work, not to mention the fact that the FA are very unlikely to implement any of these changes, but it did get me thinking what could be done to make games in England more exciting? A look to Germany may be the answer.

Fewer teams



The Germans are our old enemy, so why would we want to copy anything they do you ask? Well, firstly the professional leagues in Germany have fewer teams. Whilst this does mean fewer games, it also means there is greater onus on each game which means more attacking play. A 0-0 draw is a very rare occurrence as teams would rather score more goals than the opposition than stifling them defensively. In England, the Premier League could be reduced to 18 teams and the Championship, League one and League 2 reduced to 20 teams each and a new league introduced at the bottom of the football league with 2 teams from the National league in order to make games of all level more meaningful and exciting.

Play-offs



Another difference in Germany is the play-off system. In Germany, the top two teams in the second division are automatically promoted and the third place team plays home and away against the team finishing third bottom in the top division. This not only makes for an exciting game but also ensures the team finishing third are good enough to play in the top league. The problem with the English play-off system is that the team finishing sixth in the second division could be promoted. Whilst some fans say this shares the excitement between clubs, is it not an injustice that a team who do not perform as consistently throughout the season have the same chance as a high performing team of reaching the premier league at the end of the season? With the German play-off games being two legged ties it also ensures the team who win deserve their place in the top division as winning is not solely down to not performing in one game.

Could the cup be re-designed?



The FA cup, rightly or wrongly, seems to have lost some of its magic in recent seasons. Premier league teams play weakened teams in the competition and see replays as an annoyance rather than giving the competition the respect it deserves. Whilst I am not advocating removing the competition or re-designing it totally, it is, after all, the most traditional competition in the world, I believe that making changes in the early rounds could be beneficial to the cup. In Germany lower ranked teams are guaranteed a home draw against a big team from one of the top two leagues. This generates revenue for the lower league club, creates massive public interest and ensures that the ‘big boys' play strong teams to avoid an embarrassing loss. The FA cup could implement this rule from the third round and give some importance back to the competition.

TV Rights



Finally, all games in the top two divisions are televised – even 3pm kick offs. In England, the afternoon kick offs are purposely not televised so fans attend the stadium rather than watching from home. Whilst this is a good system, stadiums in Germany are not often empty. This is due to the cheap ticket prices. England could learn from this and lower ticket prices in stadiums, televise all games and therefore generate even more income from television rights.

As I mentioned earlier, these are purely hypothetical changes as it is very unlikely that professional football will be changed in England. It is, however, most definitely food for thought and the German model is an ideal example to follow.
Stephen Parkinson
23 year old Football fan, player and referee. Specialising in the Bundesliga since having lived in Leipzig for 2 years.

Total articles: 14

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