Now, when I say system, I mean league system. The Pro League. The league that seems to change more than the seasons. Whether it be play offs, relegation, teams promoted, teams relegated, the number of teams etcetera etcetera…But my idea would be similar to a lot of leagues around Europe.
A couple of things made me think of this post in the first place. The first thing is the number of games these teams play a season. No matter how you look at it, the season kicked off in July and will end in May. That is a loooong season in my opinion. The players (and fans) do have a slight winter break AND there was the break recently from football around the Beker van Belgie, but that just extends the season even more!
I know I’ll be crying in the summer wanting football whereas right now I’m talking, possibly, about less football, but I’m just considering alternative things within the season. Firstly, the Belgian Pro League is the only major league with just 16 teams in it, now that the Portuguese league has eighteen. The fact it then expands to 18 once the play offs begin is beyond me. I just think that 16 teams is fine…Or…Expand to 18? Especially as teams like Lierse and Union Saint Gilloise have done so well so far within this play off situation, and that doesn’t even include Royal Antwerp!
But if we stick to 16 teams in the top flight, if you want to be ‘creative’ add a relegation play off maybe? Because if we look at the regular season, the title and relegation would’ve gone to the last day, with second place winning the league in the end and the bottom side miraculously saving themselves, which is tense enough. Because of the lack of money within the league, teams seem to switch off positionally in my opinion and maybe they jostle for whether they want European football next season or a title push, but they already had 30 matches to give them that chance?
My point being that teams within these play offs, and maybe I am being unfair towards, oh i don’t know, Lokeren, Waasland-Beveren, maybe Kortrijk, where personally, they’re just looking towards next season? And the teams who may push harder are the second tier clubs hoping their game and proving their worth, or the teams who’d like a push in the Europa League next season, so some matches are total non events. For example, Mouscron vs Eupen Saturday. The Stade Le Cannonier holds just over 11,000. However, Saturday saw around 10% of that figure turn up for the fixture. Was there any point? For Eupen, definitely, but for a lot of other reasons, not particularly like the cost of staff, lighting, police etc costing Mouscron for a fixture where, they simply didn’t care in terms of maybe performance after saving themselves, and fans aren’t turning out.
So…My first point is, stay at a 30 match 16 team league if you’d like. Don’t go for more if the second tier can’t have more than 8 teams. Belgium isn’t blessed with a minimum of 92 professional league clubs unfortunately, so if they won’t have the competition below the ‘A’ league, then stick with 16. But don’t have a play offs. Players won’t put in 100% if there’s nothing to play for, and the quality may not be there because the players are humans. They’ll be tired after a 40 match league season (including play offs) if there’s not a lot to get in terms of success.
The other thing I thought of wasn’t exactly revolutionary, but there is method to my ‘madness’ although it’s not mad, just a thought. Why not have a Belgian League Cup. Or an equivalent. I know you’ll say a 24 team league cup isn’t glamorous, or they’ll say they have their Croky Cup. But if Pro League sides are anything like they are in England, certain bigger clubs may not take it too seriously in the early rounds, giving ‘lesser’ clubs the chance to win a trophy.
However, the other thing with this is that I was so shocked at the lack of u21 players in the Pro League altogether. Clubs who may not take this seriously due to a title push or European exploits may give their Beloften players a chance to show some quality against men rather than at their own age level. There is a difference. And that will maybe prolong the season too rather than a play off for Europe, and the winner of this competition too will go into Europe.
Along with this competition, it will mean that top clubs will be drawn against lower league opposition which will help them too. Look at Sutton and Lincoln this season in England. Fans love a romantic story and the way Belgian football can be, a team may go out of business at any point, in any season before merging with a neighbour and then lose all their history and traditions, stadium, fans and well…EVERYTHING!!! Sorry but writing about Molenbeek and Beerschot this season upsets me as these clubs have almost restarted or are unrecognisable from when they were glorious. Money from this competition will help them. It may help them to survive and hopefully progress too through gate receipts and media coverage. And back to the young player progression. If they perform well that could help progression in the top flight and then maybe in European competition, and if they’re sold, it’s more revenue coming into the league.
There’s no surprise the bigger leagues have the most money. Money within football is what makes it work until the bubble bursts, whenever that may be. But to have that younger option in these tournaments may help them in April when your full back gets injured and they can rely on the academy product instead of a make shift defensive midfielder slotting in that position.
In the end these are just ideas which may help and keep everyone interested throughout the season, and an extended Christmas break may occur from it, but that may not only refresh them, but rekindle the fans attitude towards wanting to go and watch their team (like Mouscron) and support, maybe win some silverware going by my second point.
Til next time…