Norwegian football think-tank wants change

A special 8 million kroner project to make Norwegian football more competitive has produced suggestions for improving the game, which includes cutting the number of teams in the top division.

Norwegian football think-tank wants change
Martin Linnes (left) of Strømsgodset versus Mounir Hamoud for Molde. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

The ideas were presented at a press conference in Oslo on Thursday. Norsk Toppfotball (NTF), an interest group for football in Norway, hired Dutch sports consultancy firm Hypercube to find solutions as to how the quality of Norwegian professional football can be improved. Many of Norway's top clubs have also inputted.

Jo Bergsvand of Norsk Toppfotball said: “There has been good dialogue with all involved parties, and we have received a lot of useful ideas that we have taken into consideration. The data basis, the models and experiences that Hypercube has contributed have been precious.”
Bergsvand led the project group that concluded three new models for Norwegian top flight football.

The first idea was to cut the top league from 14 teams to 12. First, each team plays each other once, and the two groups of six teams are formed where the teams again play each other.

The second suggestion was a 14-team division where each team plays each other once. Then two groups are formed. One of the top four teams who will compete for the championship; the second group, of eight teams, playing for a play in Europe and a cup. The two bottom teams will play each other to avoid relegation.

Model three is similar to the above suggestion, but the top four teams play for the championship, the middle six teams compete for a place in the Europa Cup, and the bottom four clubs battle it out to avoid relegation.

Other ideas included a new league between the current First and Second divisions. The project group also deliberated whether to re-schedule the current fixtures calendar and to start the soccer season in August and end it in May. This is in parallel with other European leagues.

The report was presented to the member clubs of Norsk Toppfotball earlier on Thursday. In November the organization will give its response to the suggested models. The board of NTF will later give their recommendations to Toppfotballutvalget (TFU – Norwegian football's governing body).

Leif Øverland told NTB that the total cost frame on the Project is 1 million Euro, or more than 8 million kroner. Øverland is convinced that even before any of the proposals are voted, all of it is worth every krone spent on the project.
Øverland said: “I'm absolutely sure of it, and I think that the clubs having been part of the process also agree about it.”

"The process has given us so much knowledge, among other things about club economy,” said Øverland.

Pieter Nieuwenhius concluded: “I don't expect the clubs to drop our proposals. From conversations with the clubs I feel safe that it will be realised. What's interesting is which of the three models that the clubs want.”

The changes could happen from 2017 at the earliest.

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