Serie A to remain at 20 teams, playoff idea floated 60 years ago

The future of the Serie A championship is under discussion once again, amidst talks of reducing the number of teams and introducing play offs. In his recent interview with Corriere della Sera, Lorenzo Casini, the President of Serie A, reflected on the idea of championship reform.

Casini emphasised that while there’s an existing agreement in Italy about the excessive number of professional teams, he doesn’t seem keen to change the Serie A format in tune with European standards. He was quoted by the newspaper as saying “Limiting the debate to a Serie A with 20 or 18 teams, if Premier and Liga are at 20, is misleading.”

He referred to Germany, France, Netherlands, and Portugal, where the leagues are based on 18 teams, and expressed a desire for Serie A to line up with England and Spain, who entertain a 20-team league. However, this approach may lead to substandard football and the creation of numerous teams heading into the latter stages of the season under little to no pressure.

A year ago, Lega’s CEO, Luigi De Siervo, expressed a “feigned” interest in reform. His concern was echoed in the statement, published by Corriere della Sera, “An 18-team championship would be an earthquake. We are not against it, as shown by our actions, but the decision to move from 20 teams to 18 would be bloody. We have to be cautious as there would be 76 fewer games, over 20% of the product and today we are unable to reduce our revenues because the cost structure of the clubs is rigid.”

An older report from La Repubblica revealed that FIGC President Gravina proposed to gradually reduce the number of teams from 20 to 18 in three years, possibly through playoffs, without ruling out an intermediate step of 19 teams. This amendment would have to take place by 2024 when the new Champions League format leaves us with a busier calendar and the requirement to find dates for all the matches.

Keeping in line with discussions, the controversial topic of the Super League’s future is not chance. Giuseppe Marotta once referred to the Super League, in a statement, as a “cry for help” that needed attention regardless of its organizational model. He further stated that it was a priority for the big clubs to have a Serie A with 18 participants.

Reminiscing over the Serie A format 60 years ago, which comprised 18 teams with 3 relegations, Helenio Herrera, the then Coach of Inter Milan proposed a different concept in an interview in 1964, “The championship is too long, gruelling. Italian teams rarely find a way to compete internationally due to the pressing need to perform well in the championship. I am definitely for reducing the championship, by decreasing the number of teams. Or perhaps a different idea, setting up the championship in a different way. Dividing the teams into two rounds, with a final round of four teams. It would be more interesting and spectacular. Less costly in terms of energy.”

Despite the multitude of changes since 1964, Italy seems to have made fewer adjustments. The talks hint at a possible shakeup in Serie A’s format in the near future.

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