The Sync: The Return of the Ligapokal
Last year the winter break lasted six long agonizing weeks. This year it will be seven. The break has been controversial for some time as even the Kaiser has called for the abandonment of this “luxury”. It is too long a layoff for the players and fans.
Meanwhile, this year the Ligapokal was not played due to the Euros. Last summer the Ligapokal was a terrific competition that involved the top four clubs from the previous season, the DFB Cup winner and the Zweite winner. Compared to the meaningless pre-season tournaments such as the Emirates, Amsterdam or Peace Cups, this was a competition that seemed to have purpose. And that purpose has grown ever since its revamp in 1997. It had a decent payout for the winner and carried prestige. There had been talk, even last summer that the competition might be expanded.
Yesterday, kicker reported that league officials met and have agreed to fix two problems with one solution. They are proposing to scale the break back to two or three weeks, like Spain or Italy. Rather than starting the season back a month earlier, they have decided to expand the Ligapokal and play it completely within this new window. The top 36 clubs (Bundesliga 1 and 2) will participate, with any team in European competition given a bye from the earliest round. While no specifics have been mentioned, it would seem that it would be a five round tournament that would be played over four weeks.
I love the idea, and here’s why.
1. Teams in Europe usually enter the first knock-out round of the UEFA Cup or CL without proper match fitness. This tournament gives them opportunity to be fully fit going into these tournaments, rather than suffering a disadvantage to clubs who have been playing for at least a month.
2. The league will restart with more cohesive squads. While all teams always return on equal footing after the winter break, they all have to get match prepared. This should mean that they return in February at full fitness. Last year, the number of late goals in the first week of return was high, because substitutions were so effective against tired defenses.
3. It gives all clubs an extra chance at silverware. That’s never a bad thing. And if a European spot goes along with it, then it’s all the better. This week I wrote many reasons why the Bundesliga is better than the EPL. But the fact that England has the Carling Cup, which has been won by Blackburn, Leicester City, Middlesboro and Tottenham in the past decade, is advantage England.
4. While this will matter little to fans in Germany, the break takes its toll on oversees interest. When La Liga, Series A and the EPL are all in full swing for a month while German teams are on holidays, it can cause attrition in the second half of the season as viewers are already caught up in the most volatile part of other league’s campaigns. Let’s remember that competing for Asian, African and North American money is important, going forward, if German teams want to keep pace with English counterparts.
5. It’s innovative. Without upsetting the tradition of the Winterpause, the league has found a way to help the league domestically and in Europe, expand a good competition, open a new marketing avenue and give hope to all teams of silverware.