Scotland's youth could shine in 16-team league - Dusan Fitzel

By Andrew SouthwickBBC Scotland
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic topped their Euro 2016 qualifying group, while Sparta Prague are still in the Europa League

Scottish football should consider a bigger league to help young talent, according to Czech Republic director of football Dusan Fitzel.

All 42 Scottish clubs discussed league reconstruction on Tuesday, with a 16-team top-flight among the proposals.

That is the number of teams in the Czech top division and Fitzel believes young talent would have a greater chance to shine in a bigger league.

"I am sure a 16-team league has helped our youth development," he said.

Fitzel was involved with the Czech youth teams from 1998 to 2005, and helped bring through the likes of Tomas Rosicky and Petr Cech.

After a spell as the national coach of Malta he has returned as technical director and general manager of the Czech Republic national team. Fitzel has overseen improved fortunes at all levels of the game after the country missed on qualification for the 2010 World Cup.

Since then, the Czech Republic were quarter-finalists in the 2012 European Championships and finished top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group.

"If we did not have a 16-team league and we only had 12, only a few youth players would get a chance," Fitzel told BBC Scotland.

"The bigger the league, the more teams are playing at a higher level, and the more young players are getting a chance. The more they play, the more they improve through experience of playing in the top league."

Sparta Prague v Schalke in the Europa League
Three Czech teams reached this season's Europa League group stage, with Sparta Prague making the last 32

From next season, the Czech First League will be ranked nine places above Scotland in the Uefa coefficient rankings, with two teams qualifying for the Champions League qualifiers.

However, Fitzel admits a 16-team league does have its pitfalls and they could end up moving in the opposite direction.

"Currently here in the Czech Republic we are discussing maybe having 10 or 12 teams playing each other four times," Fitzel said. "At the moment we do not play enough games.

"A 16-team league has allowed us to have a winter break of two-and-a-half months. We finish at the end of December and start again at the beginning of March. But it means we only play 14 games in spring and all the clubs are saying we should have more games.

"In a smaller league, maybe there are more interesting games. We are looking at the ice hockey league, where right now they have play-offs and the stadia there is sold-out; even the relegation play-offs. That's fantastic income for the clubs and the stadiums hold 13,000 - 15,000 people."

Fitzel, like many in Europe, has looked on with interest at the Scottish game in the last few years. He says the 12-12-18 set-up that was proposed in 2013 was interesting, but feels clubs should listen to what the supporters want.

Aberdeen v Sigma Olomouc
Aberdeen were knocked out of the Uefa Cup by Czech side Sigma Olomouc in 2009

"It's an interesting idea," he added. "It is something new, and I always feel if you don't try it then you don't know.

"From my point of view it is interesting to play for relegation or promotion. It could be a long period of games.

"It seems interesting, but the question is do the people want to see this?

"If you have enough teams for a 16 top division, they don't need to be equal. Obviously in Scotland you have two big teams, though now there is a problem with Rangers playing out-with the top tier, but still there is two or three dominant teams."

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