Friday saw the Ekstraklasa and it’s sixteen member clubs ratify changes to the structure of the league – adding an extra seven match days from the start of the 2013/14 season. However the changes, which will add an extra 56 games to the season’s calendar, have been met with derision by a number of supporters.
From next season, the existing thirty round league will be followed by a split in the league – the top eight sides entering the “Championship” group, and the bottom eight forming the “relegation” group. Here, a further seven rounds will decide everything from the title and European spots to the sides who drop into the Pierwsza Liga.
“So how will they fit in an extra seven games?” I hear you asking. Well there will certainly have to be a few more midweek games. Rather than the fifteen rounds in Autumn this season, clubs will have to squeeze in an extra six fixtures – making it 21 games – before the winter sets in. To do that, the league will start on July 13th – five weeks earlier than the current season kicked off. That leaves nine games left to be played in the spring round, before the split takes place in the first week of April.
After the split, every club will have their points total halved and rounded up, making the final run-in much closer – and hopefully more thrilling. The sides who finish the main season in positions 1-4 and 9-12 will have the luxury of playing four games of their final seven at home. The date of the season’s final game is yet to be defined, although two dates – 17th and 31st May – have been outlined, and which one will depend on whether the National Team qualifies for the 2014 World Cup. In future seasons it is expected that the season will extend into June.
The new system is designed to make the league more competitive for the duration of the season, rather than leaving the sides in mid-table playing without meaning for the final few games.
“I can not accept the fact that the some of the coaches and clubs say after 18 or 22 rounds that “they are already at peace, and they have reached the end of being secured in the league”” said Bogusław Biszof, head of Ekstraklasa S.A. “I want that fight in every Ekstraklasa game, where each game is interesting for the fans.“
Biszof’s vice-president, Marcin Animucki also mentioned other positives, including the benefit to Polish clubs’ chances of ending their 17-year wait for a Champions League place.
“The new format will play for 11 months-a-year and, importantly, clubs will begin competing in European competition in a rhythm, having already played competitive matches”.
However despite the positives outlined, there are many doubts about the new system – many critics pointing to the failed system change during the 2001/02 season, and leagues where a similar system is adopted as evidence of why the move is a step backwards.
One argument against the system change focuses on the unbalanced autumn and spring rounds – noting the winter’s break of momentum as possibly giving an advantage or disadvantage to some clubs. For example, a club could be on form during Autumn, and during this time play their home and away games against the top teams in the league. This would leave a spring round – where form may have possibly dropped, or key players may have left in the transfer window – where they only play weaker opponents. Meanwhile another side who are also on form in Autumn may be scheduled to play top clubs in the later rounds, meaning the return games would be played in Spring – possibly out-of-form or with a weakened team.
There are also some who believe that the change will lead to fans prioritising the later games – possibly avoiding the earlier games, which could be deemed as meaningless. Either way, change is on the horizon, and it seems like it will be with us for the foreseeable future. Whether it will help either clubs’ European progression or the leagues’ standing in world football remains to be seen.
“There have been voices of doubt, but these causes any change. I believe that at the end of next season, when assessing the new system, you will find a lot of real evidence that the Ekstraklasa matches are more attractive than ever, and the game attracted attention all the time. Today we took a step to enter the next level”. – Marcin Amunicki.
“I believe that the changes in the league from next season will be beneficial to the clubs, the players and the fans. Polish players should play more to get closer to the level of the best in Europe”. – Zbigniew Boniek
What are your opinions on the new system being introduced for next season? Head over to the EKSTRAKLASAreview Facebook Page and tell us!