Governing body Uefa is being urged to consider a radical shake-up of the European Championship following complaints that the existing system leads to more conservative play and a lack of goals.
A Dutch mathematician has devised an alternative format for a 24-team Euros that promises to be both fairer and more entertaining, and Holland’s football association, the KNVB, is understood to be ready to take the proposal to Uefa headquarters.
“I have confidence that Uefa will look at another competition schedule because this has not been good – we can conclude that – and I think it’s a disgrace that they even used the system,” Jan Beuving, the alternative format’s designer, told City A.M.
Euro 2016, which features an expanded field of 24 teams for the first time this year, has seen fewer goals per game than any of the preceding nine European Championships and World Cups – with just 2.15 – despite hosts France hitting five in a seven-goal rout against Iceland on Sunday.
The group stage games were even worse for entertainment, averaging fewer than two goals each and incentivising teams to play for draws, since three points is enough to progress to the round of 16.
Beuving argues that the current system is also unfair, as teams can effectively be eliminated by other sides that they have not played, as in the case of Albania and Turkey, the two nations who finished third in their groups yet were eliminated.
How Plan Beuving works
His alternative format – dubbed Plan Beuving by Dutch media – divides teams into eight groups of three, rather than the current six groups of four. After the three teams in each group have played each other, the top nation progresses straight to the last 16, while the second-placed teams play off against third-placed sides from other groups to determine the other eight teams.
Where Plan Beuving departs more radically from the current system is that it requires any draws in the group stage to be settled by an immediate penalty shoot-out. This is because results determine the order of the group fixtures, in order to ensure the maximum probability that there is something at stake in each game.
Why it's a better system
“The system is more fair, so it’s better. I think it’s more attractive too,” Beuving added.
“In the current system you have 36 group stage matches and in my system you have 24 group matches, with eight play-offs, which are knockout already and naturally more attractive to watch.
“The problem with the current system is that you can be eliminated by a team you have not faced in the tournament. So Albania and Turkey have been eliminated by four No3s from other groups – they haven’t faced these countries. So that’s unfair, you shouldn’t be eliminated by a team you haven’t faced.”
Dutch FA chief offers to lobby Uefa
Beuving, who has a degree and a masters in maths, is hopeful that his proposal will be considered by Uefa, having had positive feedback from KNVB president Michael van Praag.
He added: “Michael van Praag was on the same programme as I attended on television, and they discussed Plan Beuving and he said: ‘We’ll send it to Uefa and have a look what they think of it’. That’s encouraging. I’m optimistic that the system will be seriously looked at in Geneva.”