Fans criticize the fragmentation of the penultimate match day

Status: 05/19/2023 7:43 p.m

The fact that the games of the 33rd matchday in the Bundesliga are no longer kicked off at the same time causes displeasure among the fans. Matchday design could affect the title fight.

“Back to parallel kick-off times!”demanded the fan alliance “Unsere KURK” on Friday (May 19, 2023) in a statement. “Suspense and emotions suffer, fan culture is curtailed, the fairness of the competition is damaged”wrote the organization, which represents fans from all over Germany and is part of the “Fans and Fan Cultures” commission in the DFB.

For decades, all games have usually kicked off at the same time on the penultimate and final day of a season – on Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. That’s different now, since the 2021/22 season, the 33rd matchday has been the same as the 32 others before with the staggered kick-off times.

The penultimate matchday also delivered legendary moments

Many decisions in recent years were also based on the moments of tension from the games taking place at the same time on the penultimate day – especially in 2001. A week before Schalke 04 experienced their “four-minute championship”, the tide turned dramatically in the previous week on the penultimate day “Royal Blue”. In the parallel games, goals were scored against Schalke and for Bayern at the same time, and the lead in the table changed within seconds.

In 2007, Schalke were top of the table before the 33rd match day, but lost in Dortmund, while their competitor Stuttgart won 3:2 at VfL Bochum after being 2-1 down and took over the top of the table. “Major decisions that turn a season into gold or tin were at the core of a shared season finale and the basis for epic dramas”wrote “Our curve”. “There is no such tension on Friday evening or Sunday afternoon.” In the worst case, doing without parallel games even influences sporting decisions.

Fragmentation of Matchday 33 could influence decisions

Matchday design can affect sporting decisions – for example, when teams know the results of their competitors and what they need and don’t need. “Immediate, direct and fair competition can only be guaranteed in this phase of the season for simultaneous games at a kick-off time that applies to everyone”argues the fan alliance “Our Curve”.

With Thomas Reis, a Bundesliga coach also agrees with the fans. “If you look at it from a sporting point of view, it would be better if the games were held at the same time. That might be the fairer option for everyone.”said the Schalke coach and at the same time provided the reason why there are no longer parallel games on Matchday 33: “We also know that the television money is immensely important.”

DFL: “Practice is also implemented elsewhere in Europe”

So the reason is: More broadcast dates are possible, there is more money for the clubs. “The decision in favor of this practice, which is also implemented in other top European leagues or in the group phases of the World Cup, was made in the course of an overall assessment before the last tender for the German-language media rights.”, the German Football League (DFL) announced in 2022 when it was first implemented at the request of the sports show. The current television contracts apply to the 2021/22 to 2024/25 seasons, in principle a return to the old principle would only be possible after that.

In Europe’s top leagues, only the French league schedules all of its matches simultaneously on the penultimate matchday. In Spain it is at least most of the games, only one game is played at a different time. In Italy, on the other hand, even the last day of the game is not kicked off at the same time everywhere.

Last match days in Europe’s top leagues
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Original background: prevent tampering

“The last two matchdays of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 must be played simultaneously in each division”, was always the rule. The original background of the specification is the attempt to rule out any conceivable manipulation of games from the outset. Knowing the results of a competitor in advance can not only be useful, but in extreme cases even encourage manipulation. It would also be conceivable to agree on results that both teams use.

Such constellations are rarely possible on the penultimate match day. On the last day of the game there is a theoretical possibility more often. Therefore, in the Bundesliga, on the last day of the game, all games are kicked off at the same time.

There have also been exceptions in the past

However, the 33rd matchday was not holy in the past either. At least there were always exceptions to the simultaneous kick-off:

  • In 1963/64 there were 14 days between the last two matchdays in the first Bundesliga season. Borussia Dortmund and Hamburger SV played their game from the penultimate day between the two dates. Up until the 1970s, the simultaneous kick-off of the games was at least usual on all other game days.
  • In 1968/69 Kaiserslautern played Braunschweig on Fridays.
  • In 1969/70 the match day was spread over three days.
  • In 1971/72 the Cologne – Duisburg and Oberhausen – Mönchengladbach games were played on Fridays.
  • In 1976/77, 1. FC Köln played at Borussia Dortmund on Fridays.
  • In 1981/82, Bayern Munich played Arminia Bielefeld on Fridays because they were in the European Cup final (lost 1-0) the following Wednesday AstonVilla at.
  • In 2018/19, Eintracht Frankfurt’s game against Mainz was moved to Sunday because Eintracht was in the semi-finals of the Europa League.
  • In 2020/21, in the tight schedule of the season after the Corona interruption, exceptions had to be made for Leipzig and Dortmund, who were in the cup final and needed rest days.

Not even the last day of the game was always sacred: in 1989/90 Bayern only played against Borussia Dortmund at 6.30 p.m. after all other games.