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  • Reform Belgian competition (2008)

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    The question
    At the beginning of this millennium, the Belgians declined on the UEFA ranking. This ranking is important as this ranking determines how many teams from a country are allowed to play European football. Belgium used to be ninth on the ranking which means that Belgian champions have direct access to the Champions League. Based on their disappointing performances, the Belgians were facing a 13th spot on the UEFA ranking. This means that future Belgian champions had to qualify for the Champions League. Besides that, it seemed more likely to drop even further towards the 15th position – which means that they would lose access for the runner up by qualification – then to increase on the ranking the coming years. To turn the tide, the Belgians considered renewing their competition format to increase the quality of their football. At the same time they renewed their TV contracts.

    Hypercube’s advice
    Our analyses showed that the Belgian top clubs faced a lack of competitive resistance. Belgian top clubs played only a few matches per season against other strong teams, but far too little. Hypercube therefore proposed three solutions:

    1. Reducing the competition from 18 clubs to 16 clubs. The two weakest clubs relegated to the second level and were no longer part of the competition. Strong teams didn’t have to play against those weak teams any longer.
    2. Without these two clubs, open calendar time was created that could be used to organize more matches between strong teams. The Belgian top does not compete against each other twice, but four times per season.
    3. The competition consists out of two phases. Strong teams meet each other once in the first phase and another time in the second phase (i.e., play-offs). To keep the play-offs exciting after the first phase, results from the first phase are halved and still count in the second phase.

    Not only top clubs benefit from this system. The middle segment is allowed to play in the second phase for a last European ticket. The weakest teams compete against relegation.

    Impact
    On 17th of March 2008, the Belgians adopted our recommendation. From the introduction of the new format, Belgium has started to climb the UEFA ranking again and are now ranked 8th. In addition, the commercial value of the Belgian competition raised from 32 million to 39 million euros in the first season. In the 2016/2017 season, the commercial value was 75 million euros.