Sinai says: The futility of Luzon's expansion plans

Expanding the Premier Leagure will favor the short term over the long will backfire for Luzon and his supporters.

Allon sinai 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Allon sinai 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Avi Luzon's decision to expand the Premier League and change its format is a little like amputating a leg to get rid of a blister. Yes, it will get the job done, but only by making a bad situation far worse. Israeli soccer has just experienced one of its dreariest seasons in recent memory and it was clear to all involved that something had to be done. Increasing the number of clubs in the top-flight from 12 to 16 starting from the 2009/10 season definitely qualifies as doing something, but tragically the Israel Football Association chairman has got it woefully wrong once again. Changing the number of teams in the league and its format makes no sense and will only deepen Israeli soccer's crisis. As well as making the league bigger, as of the 2009/10 season, the top division will also be split into three sections after 30 matches with six teams in the top and bottom subdivisions and four in the middle. Each team will then play the others in its section to end the season. This new format may well ensure that the final month of the season will be especially exciting and that there won't be a repeat of the recent boring run-ins. More importantly, however, it will also mean that the first eight months of the campaign will see a further decline in the level of play and even more irrelevant matches due to the increase in low quality sides. As Maccabi Haifa chairman Ya'akov Shachar said, there aren't enough good Israeli players around to support a 12-team league, not to mention 16 clubs. More poor sides will result in more poor matches and will alienate even more of the league's ever shrinking fan base. Luzon is just the latest in a long list of IFA chairmen who have tried to cure the ills of Israeli soccer by playing with the number of teams in the first division. This new change is the seventh in just 20 years, a fact that on its own testifies to the pointlessness of trying to improve the league by altering the amount of sides in it. Chairman Gavri Levy, for example, cut the number of teams from 16 to 14 and then from 14 to 12 between 1999 and 2001. None of this, however, makes any difference now, as all the representatives of the smaller teams in the IFA were happy to approve Luzon's proposal on Monday, knowing that it would vastly improve their chances of playing in the Premier League in the near future. Sadly, though, the decision to favor the short term over the long will backfire for Luzon and his supporters, and will also hurt everybody who holds Israeli soccer dear to their heart. Another cosmetic change instead of, for example, fundamentally revamping the entire structure of the youth development, is the last thing soccer in this country needs and ensures that like Luzon, the next IFA chairman will also inherit a dysfunctional league. All the fans can hope for now is that the next man to take charge at IFA headquarters in Ramat Gan will finally tackle the core problems of Israeli soccer instead of settling for useless changes that only further damage the sport.