It’s a common complaint that English football is getting more predictable. Has there ever been a time when so few teams have had a shot at winning the title?
To find out, I decided to have a look at some other leagues going back to the end of the Second World War.
What I did was simple: I calculated in any given year in each country how many teams had won the title in the previous decade. So, a figure of 1 would indicate a team was currently on a run of ten titles on the bounce. A figure of 7 would show the title had been spread around but that a couple of teams had won it more than once in the preceding decade.
Here’s the big picture. (Don’t worry, I’ll break them down by country later.)
A few observations:
- A number of leagues saw drastic reductions in competitiveness in the decades following the war.
- For many leagues, the late 70s and 80s were among the most unbalanced.
- A few leagues have never managed to introduce any kind of competitive balance.
- Competitive balance in most leagues seems to be slowly drifting downwards.
The trend towards less fair title distribution is clearest in the richest leagues.
- Historically French football hasn’t been quite as one-sided as I’d imagined. (More on this later.)
- Dutch football was perhaps once the most competitive in Europe. (Again, more later.)
Now, let’s break it down by league. I’ve added a few observations, although my knowledge of most leagues doesn’t give me anything like the expertise required to explain all the trends. (Frankly, each of these graphs cries out for a detailed narrative from a specialist on that league.)
Who does that make the unofficial champions of Europe?
Finally, on the all-league graph, did you notice the mystery league? Well, it wasn’t a European football league at all. It was the NFL…
If you’ve any views on why competitiveness has and continues to vary between leagues – and what can be done about it – do let me know.
If you enjoyed this, please buy my book “The Ugly Game: How Football Lost Its Magic And What It Could Learn From The NFL”. That way I’ll have the money to write more things you might like. Oh, and please spread the word, too. Thanks a lot.