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Can playoffs put an end to Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga dominance?

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It’s an idea that has been tried elsewhere, but how would it work?

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

Even Bayern Munich fans will admit, the Bundesliga is not as competitive as it could be. As of writing this article, Bayern stands 13 points clear at the top of the league table, an almost insurmountable gap for the likes of Schalke, RB Leipzig, and Borussia Dortmund. Of course, it’s not as if other leagues don’t have similarly large leads at the top - Manchester City (for example) sit pretty with a 12 point gap over Manchester United - but this isn’t an EPL vs Bundesliga debate.

Bayern have won the last five league titles on the trot, and look to be rolling their way to a sixth. The addition of Leon Goretzka to the Bavarian roster will only compound their dominance. Naturally, people are concerned - and they should be. Stagnation at the top of the league isn’t good for the Bundesliga’s general appeal. So what can be done about it?

Are playoffs the answer?

Former Leverkusen boss Wolfgang Holzhäuser recently proposed a playoff system for the Bundesliga top four to make it more entertaining. Holzhäuser suggested a two-game format between the top four teams, effectively semifinals and a final round. Thomas Tuchel, among others, has expressed support for the idea.

The playoffs would have no bearing on European qualification, since the Bundesliga top four get to qualify for Europe automatically. Now Holzhäuser did not elaborate on the idea, but it can be assumed that playoffs would take place at the tail end of the season, but before cup finals and the like. Whether the ties would be single legged or two legged was also not elaborated upon. Such systems are also present in various sporting leagues around the world, including the American NFL and MLS.

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers
Here’s a picture of playoffs in the NFL. I know almost nothing about American Sports.
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The advantages

Playoffs are good at being exciting affairs. If the ties are made single legged, then each game of the playoffs becomes a virtual final in and of itself. It would give the Bundesliga something unique to market itself on, especially to an American audience, who are used to such things. Playoffs would generate extra broadcasting revenue for the entire Bundesliga, which is important considering the perennial squeeze German clubs are under from European rivals.

And most importantly - otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation - it could end Bayern Munich’s pseudo-monopoly at the top of the table. Of course, this being a Bayern Munich blog, we wouldn’t want our dominance to end any time soon. But a more exciting championship? What’s there not to love?

The obvious drawbacks

Playoffs aren’t very good at choosing deserved winners, which is probably the biggest mark against them. Of course, if the intent behind creating playoffs is solely to stop Bayern Munich from romping to a title every year, then the issue can be ignored.

The other problem is the fixture congestion. While German teams do play fewer games than their European - especially English - counterparts, any prospective playoff games might clash Champions League semi-finals and DFB Pokal fixtures. The workaround would mean more English weeks in the Bundesliga, something longtime fans might resent.

Another issue would be that, instead of increasing excitement, playoffs could damn the title race to irrelevance. What is the point of first place, if fourth will suffice? There is a solution, one used by the Indian Premier League to make the round-robin stage more exciting. Instead of two playoffs, there would be three. The loser of the first playoff would get to face the winner of the second for a spot in the final, in what is effectively a second chance for a team that messes up the first playoff.

Considering the chaotic nature of the Bundesliga table, such a measure could really boost the competitiveness of the league. However, it could just exacerbate the earlier problems (fixture congestion and more English weeks).

Such radical change is unlikely to happen in German football any time soon. But if Bayern’s dominance continues, something may need to be done - sooner or later.

Poll

Would you like to see playoffs for a more competitive Bundesliga?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Yes, Bayern win too many titles!
    (235 votes)
  • 65%
    No, keep that stuff out of my league!
    (438 votes)
673 votes total Vote Now