BERLIN (AP) — The Bundesliga title race has become so predictable that the head of the league has suggested playoffs might be needed to inject some excitement at the end of the season.
New league chief executive Donata Hopfen’s comments to the Bild-am-Sonntag tabloid last weekend have prompted a debate among fans and clubs this week on the merits of a cup-style finale to decide the German championship.
The discussion is arguably providing more excitement than the current league race, with Bayern Munich heading toward yet another title. Bayern is already leading by nine points with 13 rounds to play and will almost certainly wrap up a record-extending 10th consecutive title in May.
“The league would of course be more attractive if there was more competition at the top,” said Hopfen, who took over the German soccer league (DFL) as CEO last month. “If playoffs help, then we’ll talk about playoffs. We shouldn’t forget, though, that Bayern has done a super job in the last years.”
Hopfen said she was open to all suggestions.
“There are no sacred cows for me,” she said.
Bayern has won every league title since the 2012-13 season, when it also claimed a treble of Champions League, German Cup and Bundesliga, which it won by a record 25 points. Over the last nine seasons, Bayern has won the German league by an average of 14 points ahead of the second-placed team.
Just when it seems like a rival such as Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen or Leipzig might put up a fight, Bayern inevitably responds by swatting the challenge away.
This season, Bayern defeated Leipzig 3-2 at home last Saturday, Dortmund 3-2 away in December, and Leverkusen 5-1 away in October.
Bayern surprisingly lost at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach last month, but Gladbach is not a rival to Julian Nagelsmann’s team this season as it’s currently just a point above the relegation zone. It was only Bayern’s third defeat of the season. They’re few and far between.
Most of the clubs involved are seemingly against the idea of playoffs to decide the German championship. There was one surprising exception, however.
“I think it’s exciting to think about new models like playoffs for the Bundesliga,” Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn said. “A format in the Bundesliga with semifinals and a final would mean excitement for the fans. So it makes sense to consider it. We’re always open to new ideas at FC Bayern.”
The clubs that seem to have the most to gain from such a measure are leaning against it.
“It’s well known that I was never a friend of playoffs,” Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Kicker magazine. “But taking into account the overall situation with a view to the modus of games, nothing should be ruled out.”
Leverkusen counterpart Rudi Völler was more categorical.
“A totally wrong approach. I’m completely against it,” the former West Germany forward said.
Freiburg coach Christian Streich argued that playoffs are not necessarily fair.
“I think it’s good that whoever has the most points at the end of 34 games becomes champion and those with the fewest points have to be relegated unfortunately,” said Streich, whose team is currently fifth and would be potentially pushing for a playoff place.
“I can understand the idea to make the league more attractive. But I think the way it is now is the fairest and most meaningful,” Streich said. “But not always the most exciting, that’s clear.”
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