From the start of next season, the structure of Germany’s fourth tier will once again be altered. The ever-changing Regionalligas will be increased in their number from 3 (Regionalliga Nord, West and Süd) to 5, with each of the Fußballverbände gaining control of their own league. The leagues will be divided as follows; the respective federal states covered by the league are indicated in brackets:
Regionalliga Nord (Niedersachsen, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen)
Regionalliga Nordost (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Berlin, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen)
Regionalliga West (Nordrhein-Westfalen)
Regionalliga Süd/Südwest (Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Baden-Würtemmberg)
Regionalliga Bayern (Bayern)
The subject has been hotly disputed for a couple of years now, and the Regionalliga-Reform topic was one of the most active in German fan scenes last season, especially for teams with large fanbases stuck at that level (such as Preußen Münster, Darmstadt, Halle, etc.). One of the main complaints was the large number of reserve sides in the fourth tier, which were considered detrimental to the attractiveness of the league. This was particularly bad in the Regionalliga West, where 9 of the 18 sides in last season’s division were reserve sides. Many fans wanted to see a two-division split into Regionalliga Nord and Regionalliga Süd, with the number of reserve sides heavily restricted to only 3 at any one time. Some even suggested a separate league for the reserve sides.
Despite the obvious added exposure this would have for the bigger sides in the fourth tier such as Kiel, Magdeburg and Wuppertal, the travelling distances would be enormous, especially for smaller teams in the leagues. This could result in teams rejecting promotion into the Regionalligas on account of the costs involved (as was the case last season in the Oberliga Nordost-Nord, where Berliner AK were the only team to apply for promotion to the Regionalliga Nord, and therefore were the only side to be eligible for promotion).
The resolution made by the DFB was criticised by many fan groups, but at second glance it is probably the only feasible solution. The number of reserve sides able to compete in each league will be restricted to seven. However, a downside is that there will no longer be direct promotion from each league, as there are only 3 relegation places up for grabs in the 3.Liga So, every season there will be a playoff round involving the champions of each Regionalliga plus the second-placed team from the Regionalliga Süd/Südwest. This will mean that at least two, and maybe even three, league champions won’t be promoted. One exciting development is the fact that, for the first time since 2000, a league will be created which covers the exact same Bundesländer as the former DDR-Oberliga. So how will this league look next season? Well this season is obviously not yet over, so this line-up is based on a few assumptions regarding relegation and promotion. One other thing is that the regional football associations themselves will be the ones who decide how many teams make up the league; and this has not yet been announced. According to this link, a 16-team league would be preferred in the north east.
1. Carl-Zeiss Jena (from 3. Liga, currently 9 points away from safety but gladly prove me wrong Carl Zeiss!)
2. Hallescher FC or RB Leipzig (provided that Kiel don’t win the Regionalliga Nord; if they do, both of these teams will be represented)
3. Berliner AK
4. VFC Plauen
5. ZFC Meuselwitz
6. Germania Halberstadt
7. 1. FC Magdeburg
8. Energie Cottbus II
9. FSV Zwickau (currently top of Oberliga Nordost-Süd)
10. VfB Auerbach (third in the same league, second placed CZ Jena II cannot be promoted if first team is relegated into this league)
11. Hansa Rostock II (top of Oberliga Nordost-Nord)
12. Torgelower SV Greif (second in Oberliga Nordost-Nord)
13. 1.FC Union Berlin II
14. Optik Rathenow
15. FC Erzgebirge Aue II
16. Rot-Weiß Erfurt II
There’s still a long way to go in terms of promotion from the Oberliga Nordost Nord and Süd, and teams such as 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig, BFC Dynamo and Budissa Bautzen will surely be doing all they can to take advantage of the extra promotion places on offer. If it is the case that an odd number of teams need to be promoted from the two Oberligas, then there will be an inter-division playoff to decide this. Despite the presence of (in my opinion) a few too many reserve sides, the potential match-ups in the league are certainly something to look forward to and the league looks like a relatively-good place for large teams and sleeping giants to put a solid basis in place before attempting the jump to the 3. Liga.
I’ve just found some updated information about the league structure for 2012/13. The NOFV have stated that reserve sides of 3. Liga teams will not be eligible for promotion, nor will third teams of Bundesliga sides. As a result, Rot-Weiß Erfurt’s reserve side would not be eligible for promotion, possibly opening the door to a team such as 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig or Budissa Bautzen and, if Hansa Rostock continue their appalling 2. Bundesliga form and come straight back down to the 3. Liga, their reserve side also won’t be eligible. Teams have to register for promotion by 20.04.2012, so by then we should have a clearer picture of who is likely to play in the Regionalliga Nordost in the 2012-13 season.