Czech and Slovak FAs propose joint league – but would it work?

Photo: CTK

Two decades after the split of Czechoslovakia, the Czech and Slovak football associations have just announced a plan to set up a joint league. If the idea – which has been mooted before – gets the backing of top flight clubs in both states, a working group will be set up to begin preparing for a move that would reignite old rivalries from the days of the federal republic. But what is the thinking behind the plan? And how likely are we to actually see a Czech-Slovak league in the future?

Photo: CTK
I discussed the proposal with journalist Michal Petrák from the newspaper Deník Sport.

“I think the main motivation is to produce one competition that would be more prestigious than two small leagues, and that would lead to bigger marketing potential and bigger financial gains.”

What’s been the reaction of the football community, of fans and other people in the game, to this idea?

“Yesterday, when the idea came up again, I watched the reaction among fans. The Czech fans are mostly against the idea, mainly the young ones, who don’t remember the rivalries between for example Trnava and the Czech clubs, or Slovan Bratislava and the Czech clubs.

“They don’t remember the rivalries, and there is no benefit for them in creating a common or united Czech and Slovak league.

“But I think most of the Slovak fans would support the idea. Because I’ve seen myself that the Slovak league is very weak. That’s the reason that the Slovaks generally – the clubs, the fans, the players – tend to support the idea more than the Czechs.”

Practically speaking, what are the challenges of setting up a joint Czech and Slovak league?

“Yes, there are some, I think, very difficult obstacles. One of them is how many clubs from each of the countries would play in the competition.

“Another thing is qualification for the European cups, the Champions League and the Europa League.

“There are basically two ways how to decide how to qualify. One of them is to take into account only the place in the table, which I think would be a problem for the Slovak teams, because there is every possibility that a situation would arise in which the first three clubs would be Czech ones.

Photo: CTK
“Or one Czech team and one Slovak team would participate in the qualification for the Champions League. Which could lead to a situation in which, for example, the sixth-placed team in the table would go into the qualifying rounds of the Champions League – which would be strange, at least.”

“Then there is relegation. If two Czech teams or two Slovak teams finished at the bottom, who would get relegated?”

Looking ahead, do you think that in five or 10 years there will be a Czech-Slovak soccer league?

“I’ve been quite surprised that the teams… all the Slovak teams are pro this idea, and even some of the Czech teams support it. So I can’t say now that this won’t happen, because in the end the decision will be the clubs’ decision.”

But isn’t it also a question for UEFA, European soccer’s governing body – wouldn’t they have to agree?

“Well, the chairman of the Czech FA and chairman of the Slovak FA have been in discussions with [UEFA president] Michel Platini about it, and they say that he’s much more supportive towards it than the previous board, or the previous leaders, of UEFA were.”