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League reconstruction is coming, and 20-team divisions could be a thing of the past
Fifa

League reconstruction is coming, and 20-team divisions could be a thing of the past

Gianni Infantino's task force may use this unprecedented crisis to make sweeping changes to the game's structure

 
10:38am on Tuesday 24th March 2020
By
Paul Macdonald

Fifa president Gianni Infantino had already established a task force to build what the football calendar could look like from 2024 onwards, before the coronavirus struck.

2024 is a fabled date due to the current Champions League agreement coming to an end at that point, with the European Club Association, and chairman Andrea Agnelli in particular, keen to see sweeping changes to the structure.

It was unclear whether he would get his way. But given that even a few months of no football being played has totally blown apart the domestic seasons and placed their very completion in doubt, Infantino seems to be re-assessing his calendar projections.

In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Infantino admitted that the wider impact of coronavirus was not yet known, but that a total evaluation of how the game operates across territories would be under serious assessment.

He said: "“There needs to be an evaluation of the global impact. Let’s all together save soccer from a crisis that risks becoming irreversible."

What he means is a completely new structure to competitions. What he clearly is inferring is that the current length and design of football's most prized events is totally inflexible and incapable of reacting to events such as this.

Infantino has no plan yet, nor immediate cure to football's ills. But the route of his thinking is abundantly clear.

He added: "[We need] fewer, but more interesting tournaments. Maybe fewer squads, but more balance. Fewer, but more competitive, matches to safeguard the health of the players.

NUMBER OF GAMES IN MAJOR LEAGUES

Table

CompetitionTeamsMatches
Championship24460
Premier League20380
Ligue 120380
Serie A20380
La Liga20380
Bundesliga18306
Eredivisie18306
Primeira Liga18306
RFPL16240

“It’s not science fiction. Let’s discuss it.”

Given Infantino's Club World Cup dream looks to be up in smoke - it was scheduled to begin in 2021 but has now been postponed indefinitely as other events hold sway such as the re-organised Euro 2021 - it seems that both he and Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin know that this is a point from which there is no coming back to what we had previously.

Ceferin said in an interview with AP last week that he saw this as 'a reset for world football' and it appears that Infantino is also leaning into that thought process.

And one of the first things on the agenda will be to assess the current league structures. In England in particular there is a 20-team top flight, followed by three 24-team divisions below it. Given there are also two domestic cup competitions at the highest level, it's simply too much, and it means the calendar is totally inflexible to change.

Whenever football does get around to playing once again, the nature of how, and how often, it happens, will likely never be the same again.

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