Bundesliga News

German fans and editorial speak out against matchday 33 staggering

By Peter Weis   @PeterVicey

As German football prepares for the third consecutive year in which the season's penultimate matchday no longer features nine simultaneous kickoffs, one of Germany's largest fan alliances has issued a statement condemning the marketing-driven move. 

Senior German footballing journalist Matthias Dersch of Germany's Kicker Magazine has also published an editorial calling for the DFL to reverse this policy, set to remain in place for the next two seasons. 
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Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0
German football fans remain largely united in their opposition to what the league body governing the top two professional footballing flights has done to the Bundesliga's 33rd matchday. For much of German footballing history, both the season's penultimate matchday and its final one have featured simultaneous kickoffs for all nine fixtures.

Such scheduling preserved the integrity of sporting competition across the table. Teams remained fully motivated to win their matches, knowing full well that clinches of the title, European places, and safety could not be achieved - as the saying goes - "on the sofa". Match staggering on the 33rd matchday technically began during the 2020/21 campaign, but has been deliberately spread across three days since last year.

One of Germany's largest fan alliances, "Unsere Kurve", published a statement today outlining the many important aspects lost via the forfeiting of what Germans term a "Konferenz-Spieltag" (literally a "conference matchday" in which all teams must kickoff at once).

The issue remains especially sensitive in German football fandom. After all, it was the famously controversial "Gijon Game" in the 1982 World Cup between Germany and Austria that forced the issue of simultaneous kickoffs during the final group stage matchday in international tournaments.

The "Unsere Kurve" statement calls the "tension" that once existed on the penultimate matchday "a priceless asset that has been lost in the interest of profit". The statement also noters that fans across the Bundesrepublik who once organized their lives around the 33rd matchday have suffered.

"Excitement and emotion suffer," the statement reads, "fan culture is curtailed, the fairness of the competition is damaged. Separating the games means less excitement, less emotion, and less unity!"

"The pendulum once again swings in the direction of profit instead of sport," the statement continues, "Immediate, direct and fair competition can only be guaranteed at this stage of the season with simultaneous matches at a kick-off time that applies to everyone."

Veteran German football journalist Matthias Dersch of Germany's Kicker magazine has also addressed the policy in an editorial published on the magazine's website today. Dersch cites specifics with regard to the erosion of fair competition.

For instance, should Freiburg lose to Wolfsburg in the 33rd matchday's Friday fixture, RB Leipzig will automatically qualify for the Champions' League prior to their Saturday night game against Bayern. This has direct ramifications for the title race as well, as Leipzig will then have nothing to play for against Bayern.

Moreover, FC Augsburg could secure safety from relegation on Saturday, meaning that they have nothing to play for against Dortmund on Saturday. Dersch uses the "sofa decisions" metaphor and calls it an "emotionless and damp" matchday.

"This is a crazy idea that needs to be rectified quickly," Dersch writes, "Additional [television] income is generated at the expense of excitement in the season's final spurt. In the long run, this is a losing business proposition."

United German fan opposition and a steady protest movement did eventually compel the DFL to abandon the idea of "Monday night football" matches that stretched the Bundesliga matchday out by an additional day. It remains possible that the DFL can be moved to abandon the latest policy, but likely not before the current TV rights package expires at the end of the 2024/25 season.

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