Saturday March 18 2017
Serie A must be reduced

Such a large gulf at the bottom of Serie A perfectly highlights why the league must be reduced to 18 teams, argues Chloe Beresford.

It is hard to believe that it is only nine months since Pescara achieved promotion to Serie A. With a fourth-placed finish under Coach Massimo Oddo, the Delfini beat Trapani over two legs in the playoffs to seal promotion to Italy’s top league.

Now, with Oddo replaced by Zdenek Zeman, Pescara are set for certain relegation, with a miserable 12 points to show from a total of 28 games. Three of those points were awarded on a technicality, and it was hard for any Serie A fan not to feel for 2006 World Cup-winner Oddo as he cried on the bench when his side conceded five goals against Torino.

Preceded by a 6-2 defeat to Lazio, the 5-3 drubbing led to his dismissal, and whilst many felt for his side, Pescara’s misery this term highlights a wider point. The bottom four teams have registered just 13 wins between them all season, with one of those having been awarded on a technicality. Of their remaining 12 victories, six came against each other, two against 16-placed Genoa, with the final four against Chievo, Cagliari, Udinese and Atalanta.

It's Pescara v Atalanta this weekend and the betting odds don’t look good for the Delfini. Anything less than a massive defeat would be a shock.

The only sensible way to avoid this never-ending cycle would be for the FIGC to adopt proposals that would see Serie A reduced to 18 teams. This been a long-term desire of its President Carlo Tavecchio, who was re-elected for a further four-year term last week.

With the aim of increasing the quality of play and making the league more competitive, Tavecchio spoke about the issue back in September last year. Whilst such sentiments are undeniable, the real benefit of a reduction in teams would be an increase in credibility for the league as a whole.

Taking this season as an example, if Pescara and Crotone had been taken out of the equation under the new rules, the battle for relegation would suddenly look a whole lot different. Rooted to the bottom on 15 points would be Palermo, whilst Empoli would also look likely to go down with 22. The third spot however would be much more of a competition, with Genoa, Cagliari, Bologna, Sassuolo and Udinese all within four points of each other.

This would also have knock-on effects in the transfer market. Although suffering a terrible campaign and occupying the fifth from bottom slot, Genoa have little to worry about in terms of relegation, the Grifone an astonishing 14 points ahead of the drop zone.

The apathy created by this area of no-man’s-land has seen them strengthen top sides by selling star players Leonardo Pavoletti and Tomas Rincon to Napoli and Juventus respectively, safe in the knowledge that they will avoid relegation. Whilst Empoli have proved that the constant cycle of selling without proper reinvestment in the side will eventually come home to roost, these mid-level teams are just serving to widen the gulf.

Even though the Old Lady has enjoyed absolute dominance over her 19 rivals in the league this season, the lack of tangible competition only serves to weaken her when it comes to the real test of the Champions League. Indeed, all the Italian teams seeking European football would be improved by sterner tests through the domestic campaign.

It would cut the over-crowded fixture list and help players be better prepared for the late season rigours of European football or even international tournaments. The current 20-team league is an aberration, only the 18th campaign to use this format, compared to 36 seasons with 18 sides (most recently in 2003-04) and 30 with an even leaner 16 clubs. Before the change in 2004-05, Serie A hadn’t included 20 teams since the early 1950s.

Ultimately though, the tears of Pescara-born Massimo Oddo are a perfect illustration of the cruelty of a 20-team league. His hard work in earning promotion undone in one fell swoop, as the weekly mauling of his side cost him his job. Some teams simply don’t belong in the top flight and until we admit that, we’re just damaging those at the top, middle and bottom.

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Have your say...
Obviously all the fools asking for both Milano teams to go, aren't serious. However, there should be more respect for the 27 European, and world tittles that they account for. Because its these tittles that actually give the Nation of Italy credibility, and prestige to their footballing identity.

If anything, we should oust the club that lost 6 out of 8 champions league finals no?
on the 21st March, 2017 at 12:52pm
@ Baggio Juve 82, I agree wholeheartedly. I was thinking the same thing even if I didn't mention it. The Ultras seem to own the game there. They dictate too much and this is completely unacceptable for a first world nation. You'd expect it in Russia. In truth, the decline of Italian football is real and profound and seems to be a reflection of the greater decline of Italy in general, economically and socially. Italy has to change. It needs to modernize and so does the game.
on the 20th March, 2017 at 1:31pm
Most of the discussions about how to reinvigorate Italian football suffer from short-sighted analysis. You can't make cosmetic changes and expect systemic problems to go away. There are broader social and economic issues that go far deeper than football, whilst at the same time impacting and limiting what is possible for the sport within Italy. The present state of Italian football is a reflection of globalization, regional political bureaucracy, and local economic factors within Italy.
on the 20th March, 2017 at 10:35am
Yes, you make good points there. I just get very annoyed with Napoli for example, who are talked about as having the best fans in the world and love their team more than anything. Every home game the stadium is littered with empty seating, unless of course Real Madrid come to town. The stadium will again be packed against Juve in the next two home games, so why not the others? Milan, Inter, Roma & Lazio have similar issues.

ADL has a point when he speaks of a smaller stadium in Napoli's future.
on the 20th March, 2017 at 6:48am
@ Maradonamac, in my opinion attendance is low largely because the stadiums are decrepit and many who attend are poorly behaved. Italy is not the only nation where racist chants occur, but the violence that often occurs is completely unacceptable even if it seems to have a bated some over the past couple of seasons. You need more families attending the games. Why would anyone in their right mind want to put their child at risk? Italy needs to get serious about eliminating the thuggery.
on the 19th March, 2017 at 11:36am
20 teams, 18, or 16 won't make the quality improve. It's a lack of money sadly. Remember when all the top players used to live in Italy? Money had everything to do with it.

The Christmas break is a myth in my opinion. A break makes no difference, as these are young 20somethings in the prime of their lives. Italy should adopt this as fans would (should) love it.

Fan's shouldn't need encouraging to go see their team play. Italy is a football nation, no? Why so many empty seats?
on the 19th March, 2017 at 7:24am
Talk realistically,how is removing the two milan clubs going to help improve the league. Juve is running away with the league because the two milan clubs are currently not getting their acts right and its a known fact that napoli and roma cannot compete with juve. I personally thing reducing it is only a temporary solution. Like someone said, allowing the clubs to have a b team in serie b might help improve the competition in serie b thereby improving the quality of promoted teams.
on the 19th March, 2017 at 6:55am
18 teams seems like a half-baked soultion. 16 is more sensible if reducing Serie A teams is the way to go in the first place.

Money is not a big issue here, the teams will get a bigger cut from TV rights assuming the total remains the same.
As for attendance.. Well it's not like the stadiums are packed anyway. If anything, reducing the teams will creat more competition and thus attracts more fans to attend. More fans will probably buy season tickets etc

As for the Xmas break I'm not sure.. Look at how the English teams lose their steam between March-May.
Bundesliga have an even longer Xmas break and I don't see any problems there..
on the 18th March, 2017 at 10:28pm
technically it is more money for all the clubs to have the extra fixture and one thing that Italian football seriously needs is money. It shouldn't be ignored that serie b has been in decline for over decade this used to be a league where the best youngster got their start in football and true you could point to pescara but ultimately in days gone by you would be more likely to see di gennaro start ahead of el shaarawy in their padova days.
on the 18th March, 2017 at 8:36pm
Agreed, but instead of Pescara and Crotone it would be Milan and Inter that must go down to Serie B.
on the 18th March, 2017 at 7:04pm
How about allowing teams to field "B" teams in lower levels like La Liga. Let them develop youth and make Serie B competitive. Might help the situaiton. Also excellent idea of removing the 2 Milano clbs (!). 
on the 18th March, 2017 at 4:02pm
They don't have to reduce it to 18 teams. What they should do is start the season a week or two earlier and do away with the silly Christmas break. Completely unnecessary.
on the 18th March, 2017 at 2:48pm
Sure let's do this, it will definitely make the league more interesting for let's say 5-7 years. Then we get back into the same position, so we cut 2 more... Soon it will end up looking like the Scottish league where the same teams play each other all the time...
This would only be a temporary solution, how do we take are of the underlying problem? No idea but I'm not the one being paid to create enough funds to spread around so that the teams don't keep getting bankrupt.
on the 18th March, 2017 at 12:33pm
This article is stupid. How many teams are there in La Liga? Premiership?

The problem in Italian football is that Serie B is so far behind Serie A. The Premiership has what, 5? tiers of professional football. Italy barely has 2, realistically. You need to build new stadia to encourage fans to attend matches, driving up revenues, so the bottom clubs can actually spend money. Starting to cut the league to make it 'more competitive' is the Target method of business, you're rearranging deck chairs
on the 18th March, 2017 at 9:41am
duo club milano should've removed from serie A !!
on the 18th March, 2017 at 9:37am
Spot on. Some elephants in the room addressed at last. I also hope the stupidity of playing the Supercoppa mid-season in the middle of nowhere will stop. Christmas breaks should be sacrosanct and the top clubs especially should also look at training sessions not being too intense all the time, as they would seem to be, so players don't run out of steam at the final stages of the season.
on the 18th March, 2017 at 1:18am

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