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|  Daniel Nister

A regional Balkan league as a consequence of a European super league

Top clubs are pushing for the new European super league

A new European super league has been in discussion for several years and seems to be further specified, driven by dozens of clubs from the top 5 leagues. The basic idea is based on 18 participating clubs starting in 2022. Investors are ready for this. FIFA welcomes the project. UEFA rejects such a league. 

Where the journey will lead remains to be seen in the near future.

Idea of a bigger and more diverse European super League

In a recently column by the Guardian, Philipp Lahm advocates a European super league, but not only consisting of the biggest clubs in the top 5 leagues. He advocates a larger and more diverse super league. 

Through other participating clubs from different locations such as Amsterdam, Belgrade or Istanbul, the league is becoming more attractive. Cultural differences of the respective clubs and cities enrich the whole league. Lahm emphasize this approach by stating that „Diversity is Europe’s strength“. 

But what would such a European super league mean for football clubs from the Balkans?

The Serbian league currently 22nd in Europe

The LingLong Tire Superliga is the top division in Serbia. It exists since 2006 and there are currently 20 clubs participating. Many of them have economic and financial difficulties and live almost exclusively from selling players.

The gap between the Serbian league and the major European leagues is large. The average market value of a Serbian club within the league amounts to 10,53 million euros per club. Thus they occupy the 22nd place of the professional leagues in Europe.

For comparison: The English Premier League, as the front runner, has an average market value of 428 million euros per club. The German Bundesliga clubs amount to 253 million euros per club, while the 2nd Bundesliga with an average market value of 18,98 million euros per club still has a higher market value than the clubs from the Serbian league.

Ajax, Lisbon and Salzburg as stepping stones

According to evaluations by CIES, most of the players make the leap into the clubs of the top 5 leagues through Ajax Amsterdam (22), Benfica Lisbon (21), RB Salzburg (20) and the Real Madrid academy (17). 

Within the Balkans it is the Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb who was able to sell the most players (11) to a Top 5-Club. 

If we look at the countries, it is England (125), Italy (106) and Spain (95) that train the most players for these clubs. Croatia (21) is on the 13th place while Serbia ranks 17th place (17).

In addition, the players made their debut with an average of 21.7 years in the jersey of a top five league club. So it is an advantage if talents in the respective clubs get development opportunities in the senior sector at an early stage and can develop under competitive conditions.

The gap to the super league would be enormous

In order to continue train and develop players for the top European clubs in the future, adjustments to the Balkan leagues are necessary.

Whether a super league with a few clubs from the Balkans or completely without. The gap between a single Serbian, Croatian or Bulgarian league and the European super league would be enormous.

The question is how a substructure can be created and built that will enable the clubs from the Balkans to develop even better and more players in the future, who will make their way into the top clubs?

At the moment, the gap would be too big to go straight to the big clubs from one of those leagues.

From an economic point of view, the goal must be to keep the players in the club longer, to develop them as well as possible  and then to sell them directly to these clubs without detours via other countries and clubs. 

One option to ensure this would be a common regional Balkan League. 

Already common in other sports

Such a common league has been successfully practiced in other sports for years. This includes, for example, the Adriatic Water Polo League  and above all the Adriatic Basketball League. These leagues include teams from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia. In addition, there are always guest teams from various other countries such as Israel, Hungary or Bulgaria. 

The ABA-league was founded 20 years ago. One level above there is the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, a professional basketball club competition for European basketball teams since 2000. 11 of the 18 starting places are permanently assigned to licensed clubs that have long-term licenses with the Euroleague Basketball company and are members of the Shareholders Executive Board.  A and B licenses are used here. Criteria are: sporting success, size of the hall and media presence. The remaining places are still awarded with five annual or two-year licenses and two wild-cards.  

With KK Crvena Zvezda Belgrade one Serbian club is currently represented in this league.

Two current prime examples are Serbian NBA Players Nikola Jokić and Bogdan Bogdanović. The 28 year old Bogdanović from the Atlanta Hawks made his way through KK Partizan Belgrade (ABA-league) and Fenerbahce Istanbul (Euroleague). 

The 26 years old and 2.11m tall Jokić as a player from the Denver Nuggets is at them moment the hottest contender for the current MVP title. He developed his career significantly with the club KK Mega Soccerbet from Belgrade and played also in this regional ABA league before he was drifted directly into the NBA.

Advantages of a regionally combined Balkan league

The advantages of a common Balkan league in football are varied. 

First of all such a league would be more attractive, the entertainment and spectacle would be higher for the Fans, Media and Football Lovers. The stadiums would be fuller, the media interest would increase and consequently more TV money would be available for the clubs. 

The Clubs in turn would have a greater competition and a higher sporting attractiveness. This would help develop players better through a higher competition challenge week after week. 

The Squad value as a success indicator

There is a very strong correlation between sporting success and squad value in the European top leagues. Thus, a key driver of the sporting success of a club is the quality of the available squad, which can be described using the market value of a team.

The Squad value can be increased by two things: 

- Developing (Increasing the existing quality and performance by developing the existing players, integrating of well-trained youth players or the excellence of transfers).

- Investments (Investing in new players with a higher Value)

Big transfers and Investments are actually not an option for clubs in leagues such as the Serbian, due to the financial possibilities.

The goal and focus should therefore be on player development. To develop future and modern players with a clear strategy and a holistic approach.

For this, among other things, a more competitive league is necessary.

A Balkan league would enrich and strengthen the region. There would be a higher quality density which would develop better players. Of course, this would only be an important part of the adaption. 

Further the quality of the coaches and their staff and experts is crucial.

By developing a strategy early on, a strong Balkan league could be established, in which competition and quality density increase and thus there is an advantage for the participating clubs and countries from a sporting and economic point of view.

Bild von jbojan auf Pixabay

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