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Post by Scottish » Mon Jan 26, 2015 3:02 pm

How do you explain such low attendances in Romania? With great difficulty I think. Look at Steaua Bucharest. By a country mile the most successful club in Romanian football. Twenty-five league titles and twenty-one cups. Far and away the best Romanian team in Europe. Former European champions with a Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and another European Cup final thrown in for good measure. And still a highly regarded side today, placed inside the top fifty clubs in Europe, just three places below Liverpool.

Yet with a nationwide population of over 20M (tenth largest in Europe), almost 3M of whom reside in Bucharest – the SIXTH LARGEST CITY IN THE EU – even Steaua can’t attract 10,000 on a regular basis.

With so many countries above them having a smaller population and none with a higher population below them, it is, to me at least, inexplicable. It can’t even be attributed to living standards. Yes, many smaller countries with larger attendances are better off but I’m not sure how much of a difference there is in this respect between Romania and Serbia, which has around one-third of Romania’s population yet draws 200 more on average for a top division game. It’s not as if many Serbs shinny up drainpipes to shout out their attendances when they get to the top either.

At any rate, the tenth largest country in Europe (and I mean Europe, not just the EU) draws only the 24th best crowds with an average of just 3,682 and is 52nd in the world, a mere fifty-four fans per game ahead of Peru.

The Bucharest derby between Steaua and Dinamo is the best-attended fixture in Romania with 28,574 watching Dinamo’s home fixture last season. I’ve seen 30,000 claimed for Steaua v Otelul Galati but I’ve also seen 25,000 quoted for the same match. At the other end crowds can fall as low as fifty.

Liga 1 has eighteen clubs playing each other twice for a total of thirty-four games each and 306 overall. Four go down and are replaced by two from each of the regional second levels. Last season one club at the bottom went bust and a top six side were relegated on financial grounds (sound familiar?) thus sparing fourth bottom from the drop. This season, in preparation for a reduction in top flight numbers to fourteen, six teams will be relegated. The Romanian authorities it would appear are streamlining their system to boost competition yet there is no big gap between the bottom and mid-table. Barring bottom club Corona Brasov there were just five points separating ten clubs from eighth to seventeenth last season. So while any differences the new system will make remains to be seen, increasing competition in the lower half of the league won’t be one of them.

9611 Steaua Bucharest
9559 Petrolul Ploesti
7511 Dinamo Bucharest
4615 Universitatea Cluj
4206 CFR Cluj
4159 Botosani
3871 Poli Timisoara
3853 Otelul Galati
3059 Pandurii Targu Jiu
2618 Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt
2106 Astra Giurgiu
2018 Vaslui
1918 Brasov
1735 Concordia Chiajna
1724 Gaz Metan Medias
1318 Sageata Navodari
1212 Viitorul Constanta
1182 Corona Brasov

Unusually for Europe, Romania has two regions at second level. There’s no real reason for this. Yes, it’s a fairly large country – twelfth largest in Europe. But even taking into account countries with larger areas, much of which is uninhabited or only sparsely so, like Sweden, Norway and Finland, and also including the UK which – although larger - has four national associations, none of which comprises an area larger than Romania, there is still no good reason to have two regions. There are still seven countries in Europe with much larger areas than Romania, all capable of operating a NATIONAL second level.

The twelve teams in both groups play each other twice, after which they split into two (remaining inside their respective groups). TAKING ONLY THE POINTS GAINED AGAINST EACH OTHER they then form two groups of six. The promotion group offers top division status to two teams in both top sections for a total of four and three of the six clubs in each of the two relegation groups go down.

Except that is, for a season like last, when the number of clubs going bust meant two clubs which should have been relegated were reprieved.

Got that? Good. Because it’s all change from next season when Liga II will – sensibly - move to a national division of twenty clubs. Coupled with the changes in the top flight there will be thirty-four clubs taking part in two national structures compared to forty-two in the top two levels at the moment. Perhaps these changes will avoid the financial ruin which has spread like wildfire through Romanian football in recent seasons.

The third level will maintain it’s seventy-two clubs but re-organised from its present six regions to four.

Oddly enough the current second level system, unfathomable though it may be, provides attendances which, in the context of poor gates in Liga 1, hold up well. Possibly because some big names by Romanian standards have fallen on hard times and are struggling to make their way back to the top. Group B1 is 36th in the rankings and B2 27th. Their combined tally would put them in 32nd position. Theoretically (if no clubs go bust) there are 384 matches in all, 192 in either group, with each side playing sixteen home games.

In B1 Rapid Bucharest are the obvious example of a famous name now slumming it. B2’s gates were boosted by the short-lived Craiova derby in which newly founded CSU drew 20,500 for the visit from the established Universitatea and 8,500 turned up for the reverse fixture. The combined figure of 29,000 represented well over 10% of the total attendance in this group.

Arguments have raged over which is the “proper” club and which holds the history of past success – a bit like if a “successor” club had emerged after the Rangers fiasco or “Oldco” and “Newco” were two separate clubs. The argument was settled once and for all when Universitatea, who had been fighting a rearguard action against the national federation’s (FRF) attempts to disaffiliate it (long story, too long) went bankrupt following a final court ruling in favour of the FRF.

3306 Rapid Bucharest
2756 CSM Iasi
1612 Unirea Slobozia
1256 Rapid Sucueva
993 Gloria Buzau
669 Braila
407 Clinceni
368 ACS Berceni
347 SC Bacau
312 Farul
306 Tarlungeni
166 Dunarea Galati

4425 CSU Craiova
2689 Universitatea Craiova
2256 Olimpia SM
2087 ASA Targu Mures
1750 Ramnicu Valcea
1280 Metalul Resita
894 Olt Slatina
826 Bihor Oradea
604 UT Arad
547 Gloria Bistrita
379 Minerul Motru
308 CS Mioveni

I have no figures for lower levels.

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