Initiating discussion is necessary, not though if the topic means a step or even two steps back as Oliver Bierhoff has proven with his remarks regarding Germany’s third division.
Oliver Bierhoff has been the manager of the German national team since 2004 and never has he been spared from criticism, something that has intensified last year after Germany were eliminated from the World Cup during the pool stages and the Mesut Özil affair during which he and the now dismissed DFB President Rainhard Grindel have not played a very good role.
Two Steps Back
His latest statement will even further estrange him from the footballing base in Germany. He proposed to split the third division into two or three divisions in order to give more young players a chance to break into professional football. Of course this is important but his suggestion to carry this out on the back of the third division shows that he does not care for the lower echelons of the German football pyramide. Therefore his argument is futile and should be refuted strongly. It has taken the DFB decades to establish this third division, which is highly appreciated as it offers a first step for many young talents into the realm of professional football. Additionally, it closes the gap between the amateur camp that are the regionalised fourth divisions and the 1 & 2 Bundesliga. Therefore, any suggestions to split up the third division again would just be two steps backwards and seriously question any progress that has been made over the last years. Instead, it would be much appreciated, if the second teams of Bayern, Dortmund et.al. were all taken out of the league and instead played in their own reserve league, playing other second outfits. Currently, Bayern München II are playing in Liga 3 and their team utterly distorts the competition. A look at the team’s market value will suffice. Bayern are valued at more than €43.3m while Unterhaching, currently in top spot are worth a seventh of that: €6.13m. The second highest after Bayern are KFC Uerdingen with an estimated value of €8.25, still a fifth of the Munich giants. Thankfully, Bayern do not dominate the third division just as the first team has done in the Bundesliga over the last seasons. Moreover, those second outfits are no crowd attractions giving more weight to the argument that these teams should be playing in their own league.
Strengthen the League, not Weaken it
Therefore, splitting the third division up into two or even three parts would certainly destroy the good progress that has been made over the last years since its inception in 2008. With some exceptions the grounds are full, the playing level has increased significantly and even broadcast revenue is increasing, though will never reach heights as lofty as Bundesliga 1 or 2 but allows clubs to sign quality players. Any idea to fumble with the third division would make this league weaker, not stronger and surely would not help any German national team, whether this be the under-17s to 21s or even the senior team. Sadly, no one within the DFB has so far contradicted Bierhoff which is a sad sign and gives a clue about the state of affairs and the power relations within the organisation. Bierhoff wields far too much power and uses too much marketing speak, thus estranging the national team(s) from their traditional fan base(s).