Czech football’s top flight set for revolutionary changes from 2018–2019

Illustrative photo: CTK

Czech football’s first division is set for a major shake-up from the start of the 2018–2019 season. Following 30 rounds of the regular season, clubs will form three groups, with the top one battling for the title and the bottom one fighting to avoid the drop. But what is the motivation for the huge change?

Dušan Svoboda,  photo: Czech Television
There are 16 clubs in Czech soccer’s top tier and they face each other twice a season, as is the usual practice in the sport.

However, from the 2018–2019 season teams will play several more games – in three different groups. League Football Association chief Dušan Svoboda outlined the changes earlier this week.

“After the 30 rounds, the title group, featuring the first six teams, will play each other in a round robin system. The number of games they play at home and away will depend on their league position after 30 games.”

The top three get to play three matches at home and just two on the road. And the points the clubs pick up in the group will be added to those earned in the regular season.

The mid-table group of four clubs will face each other twice in a playoff, with the winner taking on a lower ranked team in the first group for a Europa League spot.

The final group will be battling to avoid relegation, again in a round robin system and again counting the points from the regular season. The 14th and 15th teams will then take on the second and third clubs from the second division in a play-off. Whoever finishes bottom in the top flight is guaranteed relegation, just as the winners in the second tier are assured of promotion.

But why did the clubs vote for such a radical transformation? That’s a question I put to football journalist Karel Häring.

“I think there are two main reasons. The first is to offer more games for fans and for players.

“The second factor is they can earn bigger money by selling TV rights with more games.”

Is there any negative side to this change, from your perspective?

Illustrative photo: CTK
“At the moment, I don’t think so.

“Of course some people say that it will be a boring group for teams between seventh and 10th place.

“But I think the teams in the middle of the table also have smaller motivation at the end of the season.”

But won’t the season be too long?

“If you look at other countries like Poland and Belgium [which have similar systems], I think we have similar weather to them. So I don’t think it’s too long.

“I don’t think attendances will be big in the summer months. A lot of people spend their holidays outside the big cities.

“But I still think the main reason is that Czech players need to play more games.”