The last two years we have experienced a unique version of football league structure. It has been argued that the introduction of the playoffs will increase the revenues of the teams, expanding in this way their available budgets of the teams and improving the quality of the games (by employing more expensive players). But is there a catch?
Let me first present to you the Cypriot system, by the start of a season until the completion of the first phase the teams have to play each other twice. When the first phase ends the league is split into three groups based on the rankings of the teams. The first one will decide who’s going to be the champion of the season; games are played between the top four teams. The second one is of a minor significance, played by teams between the middle of the league table. While the last group, is of some importance because one of the teams will be relegated.
The argument in favour of this revised system is that it will increase teams’ revenues. Unfortunately I haven’t found data on ticket sales to compare them with years before the change. Intuitively though it might be the case (not necessarily though), more games means more tickets for sale. The fact is that the total sales of the last 6 games (for the second phase) were equal to 77 550 from which 57 055 were sold in the first group. A 74% of revenues went to the top four teams which mean that the revenues of the top teams are increasing more than that of the middle and small class teams. It follows that this system might indeed increase the ticket revenues in total but at the same time it increase the financial gap between the big and small teams. Notice also that the price of the tickets might vary, in other words a football fan might be asked to pay more to see a derby enhancing the gap even more. In addition to that smaller teams are highly dependent on revenues from games with big teams, for the first round at least. If the interest on the games in the first round has been reduced, because football fans are more willing to see games of the second phase, then this will make things even worse for the smaller teams.
To conclude, I doubt that the new rules of game have helped all the teams in the same way. Last, if we indeed need to see a more competitive championship and not a 2-3 teams race for the title then the structure of the football league has to be revised again.