The new Belarussian season starts at the beginning of April but confusion still reins as to who will be competing and what format the Vysshaya Liga will take.
In early February, the Belarus Football Federation sent four proposals to the 16 clubs who will compete in the 2008 campaign as to the format the league will take. The first was for the 16 teams to play each other home and away, with two teams being relegated at the end of the season and two more going up. The second proposed a similar format, but with three teams going down and just one coming up, reducing the number of teams for the 2009 campaign back to 14.
However, the general consensus in Belarus is that the league should be cut down more radically with a view to improving the general standard. With the likes of Croatia, Serbia, Denmark, Austria and Scotland all having more success than Belarus in European competition despite having top flights consisting of just 12 or fewer teams, the latter two BFF proposals were the ones which received the most positive response in the football world.
The first of these suggests that after the 16 clubs have played each other twice, the bottom five sides should all be relegated, with only one team from the second tier coming up. Plan D, meanwhile, proposes that the league should split into eight-team championship and relegation sections after eight rounds, with the bottom five in the latter section going down and, once more, one side being promoted from the second tier.
Evgeni Shuntov, who was in charge of Belarussian football from Soviet times until the start of the 1990s saw a problem in the latter plan, saying: "In the first stage some will have to face, for example, the champions at home while some will have to do it away. This is a big difference. I believe there is no need to make any changes for the coming season but we certainly have to decide in time for the season after the next one."
Club representatives met on 14 February to discuss the new proposals but could not come to an agreement, leaving the BFF executive committee to have the final say. However, BFF general director Leonid Dmitranitsa hinted that it might not take until the end of the season for the Vysshaya Liga to shed its underperforming clubs. "It's far from certain that all the 16 clubs will manage to successfully pass the licensing process," he said.
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