Re Think Formats: How Can You Make the 24 Teams Euro Great?

Yes, even with 24 teams you could see more big matches than with 16 teams, with a more competitive structure and even better quality

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Yesterday Slovakia celebrated a 0-0 draw with England as if they’ve won the Euro. England put on a disappointed face but actually were quite content with the draw because it means they’ll have 2 more days to rest than they would have gotten as first place in Group B.

These are some of the many  distortions like that, which turn Euro 2016 into a very boring tournament (just 1.82 goals per game).

A lot has been said why UEFA shouldn’t have change the number of participants, why 24 teams is a bad number (including this video by The Guardian), and complaints about the lack of big matches, but nobody has said HOW to make the EURO great, even with 24 teams.

First of all, the only “bad numbers”, are odd numbers, because as two teams play each match, an odd number of teams means at least one team would have to rest each match-day. As long as number of teams is even, you can design a competition with 3 or any number of match-days in the first round and no team resting.

MatchVision, a company specialized in tournament architecture and competition optimization, has developed numerous base formats, that allow organizers to analyze the sportive and commercial needs when deciding on number of participants, without the restrictions of Groups format.

That said, UEFA should have increased the number of teams moderately, first from 16 to 18 (12.5% increase) and not directly to 24 teams (50% increase). Nonetheless, a format UEFA should consider to a 24-teams competition is MatchVision’s POTs System (c).

Under that system, the teams are not divided into groups. Instead, and for matches draw purposes only, they are divided into POTs, in this case 3 POTs, each of 8 teams. While the POTs could be organized by any criteria, the most logical one would be UEFA Co-efficient, as today. The best ranked teams would go to POT A, the medium teams to POT B and the emerging teams to POT C. In the case of EURO 2016, the POTs would have looked like this -

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POT A: France, Spain, Germany, England, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Russia

POT B: Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland, Romania

POT C: Slovakia, Hungary, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Iceland, Wales, Albania, Northern Ireland

Each team, no matter in which POT it has been placed, would play against one team from each POT.

For instance, France would play against Spain (A), Switzerland (B) and Albania (C); while Switzerland would play France (A), Romania (B) and Hungary (C). The draw could be blind or to have some sort of criteria, in order to ensure similar level of rivals for all teams.

The POTs are not groups. All 24 teams are placed in one general standing, and after 3 match-days the first 16 teams in the table advance to the Round of 16 in the most transparent and easy way. Moreover, the pairing of teams in the Round of 16 is decided by their performance in the first round – The 1st would face the 16th, 2nd vs. 15th, etc.

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Under that system, each team would be incentivized to win all matches, in order to get more accessible rivals in the next phase. Additionally, as best teams (by UEFA ranking) play each other in the first match-day, the table would be tight, as at least 4 strong teams would lose points in their first match. On the other hand, small teams, that usually try to not lose the first couple of matches in order “to stay alive”, would know that their best chances to win are in match-day 1 & 2, and therefore we would see more attacking football from the beginning to end of the first stage.

Oh, and one last thing, you wanted big matches? How about and opening match of France-England followed by Spain-Germany? Yes, even with 24 you could see more big matches than with 16 teams, with a more competitive structure and even better quality. It is time to #RethinkFormats

The Writer is the Chief Operating Officer at MatchVision

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