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An All-Island League | Throwback to the Bundesliga's amalgamation

Raf Diallo
Raf Diallo

07:41 25 Nov 2019

Last week on Off The Ball, businessman Kieran Lucid joined Nathan Murphy to discuss his plans for an All-Island League.

It would see League of Ireland clubs and NIFL Premiership teams combine to play in a single competition rather than the current status quo of separate sporting jurisdictions.


The All-Island League plans have already hit roadblocks with the opposition of the Northern Irish FA, although as Lucid insisted in the interview, he retains hopes of getting them back to the negotiation table. Time will tell whether that comes to pass.

Historically, league amalgamations are uncommon. Indeed, the opposite is true. Due to the political break-up of states, new leagues have often formed from the remnants of competitions in larger states.

Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union are just three examples of former states that broke up into smaller political entities and in turn spawned new leagues and national teams.

Bundesliga

However, the one notable exception of league amalgamation in Europe is Germany. Unlike Lucid's plan which is purely sporting and not linked to political considerations, the Bundesliga underwent change at the dawn of the 1990s due to German reunification.

But how did that work and what were the long-term outcomes?

The 1991-92 season was the first campaign in which the formerly West German Bundesliga absorbed clubs from the old German Democratic Republic AKA East Germany. It expanded from an 18-team top flight to a 20-team competition for one season only.

Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden were the two teams who made the cut. Both clubs had finished first and second respectively in the last East German club season. The other East German clubs below them ended up in the 2.Bundesliga and below.

East German football, much like economically, was joining a power dynamic in which it was comparatively weaker. As former Wigan and Leeds manager Uwe Rosler points out in this interesting Deutsche Welle piece, the clubs from his native piece were already weakened prior to amalgamation.

"The Bundesliga clubs came over and headhunted all the talent out of the east. And the eastern clubs didn't get paid the money they deserved to rebuild their clubs and their structure," he said.

It's also worth noting that East German football had made little significant impact outside its own borders. That's in sharp contrast to their western counterparts. There were only a few exceptions to that trend. Beating the West in the 1974 World Cup group stages was one internationally. However, West Germany still went on to win that World Cup. At club level, Magdeburg winning the 1974 Cup Winners Cup and Lokomotiv Leipzig getting to the final 13 years later were two notable exceptions.

Modern Day Status

Long-term though, East German clubs are mostly an afterthought in the current Bundesliga. Of the current top flight clubs, only two are from the old East. Union Berlin won the East German Cup in 1968 and reached their last final in that competition 20 years later. RB Leipzig are the other. But they have an asterisk beside their name.

As recent history clearly shows, they are essentially a new club who owe much of their sudden rise to Red Bull's involvement. As for the two initial clubs that entered the 1991-92 Bundesliga, where are they now?

Dynamo Dresden suffered relegation in 1995 after four seasons in the Bundesliga in which they never finished above 13th. They would fall as far as the fourth-tier. But these days they have returned to the second-tier.

Hansa Rostock are a division below them. And outside of that duo, only Energie Cottbus and VFB Leipzig (now known as Lokomotiv) have made sporadic experiences in the past. It clearly didn't work out for East German clubs.

But of course, the German example would be far from like-for-like compared to a potential Irish league amalgamation for a myriad of reasons. You'd expect more than 10% of amalgamated top-flight clubs coming from the NIFL for one - in stark contrast to Germany's 1991-92 season. However, in the overall basic context of amalgamating leagues, it's interesting to view how that rare process has been approached.

Watch the full interview with Kieran Lucid on his All-Island League proposals below:


Read more about

Bundesliga East Germany German Reunification Irish Premiership Kieran Lucid League Of Ireland Off The Ball Raf Diallo West Germany

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