The State of Czech Football

May 21, 2019

Written by:

Fortuna Liga

Founded: 1993

Most Championships: Sparta Prague, 12

Last 5 Winners: Slavia Prague (18/19, 16/17), Viktoria Plzen (17/18, 15/16, 14/15)

UEFA Ranking: 13th

Highest Ranked Club: Sparta Prague, 42nd

Interview with Czech football expert Michal Petrák

Since the EL was rebranded, Czechia have had five sides make the last 16 of the EL. Is this thought of as a successful time for Czech football?

I would not say this has been a successful time for Czech football as a whole – to think about the decade as such, fans would need to see some positive results from the national team.  Three clubs have progressed this far in the competition and each one of them was in a different situation with different circumstances.

Plzeň have built a dynasty under Pavel Vrba, the most successful Czech manager of the last decade. The success of Sparta was a one-off as they have had various problems in recent years trying to build a dominant side they used to be. Slavia is a different story – they have risen from ashes and with a help of massive Chinese investment and some good decisions in appointing their current sporting manager and head coach they are on a verge of building a dynasty themselves.

The league is ranked 13th in UEFA’s member rankings above the likes of Scotland, Switzerland. Why has Czech football in particular been so relatively successful in recent years?

Again, I would not talk about the success of the Czech football as a whole. There are three clubs that are very strong financially in comparison to the rest of the league – Slavia, Sparta and Plzeň.

There is very little chance that any other club would make it that far in the Europa League, see Zlín in 2017/2018 or Jablonec this season. Sparta and Slavia have rich owners who can invest in their respective teams, Plzeň has made good use of the financial bonuses they have got from their participation in the Champions League.

Is getting to the last eight of the Europa League seen as a remarkable achievement back in Czechia  or do fans hope for more?

Yes, it is seen as a remarkable achievement. It is pretty rare, too. Only Sparta and Slavia have made it that far in recent years.

Anyway, qualification for the group stage of the Champions League is something the fans (and clubs) crave for – both in terms of prestige and financial reward.

Do Czech football fans get excited by the Europa League in general?

The answer to the question is tough. Of course they are much more excited by the Champions League. The Europa League as a competition does not create any special interest – the games in Jablonec this season were not sold out, for example.

The level of excitement depends on the opposition – fans are excited by the prospect of Sevilla, Chelsea, Lyon or Atlético. Opponents like Astana don’t create that much excitement

Do most of the country get behind the side playing in Europe or is there a lot of tribalism still apparent?

The tribalism is still there, definitely. The old saying goes that most of the fans in the country have their own club whom they support and are divided between Sparta and Slavia at the same time. One would have to look really hard to find a Sparta fan supporting Slavia even in the Europa League games.

In recent years, Plzeň have become something similar, but they are still more of a regional club. The sympathies for Sparta and Slavia are spread across the whole country

How do you think the Europa League 2 will affect Czech EL performances and what has been the reaction to the formation of the competition in Czechia?

There has not been any widespread discussion among fans about the UEFA Europa League 2 yet.

My opinion is that its introduction will not affect the chances of a Czech club to progress to the Europa League last 16.

The teams that are strong enough to progress to that stage now (Slavia, Plzeň and maybe Sparta) will have similar chance in the new format. It will only limit the number of Czech clubs likely to participate in the Europa League proper but, as I mentioned earlier, other clubs than the strong trio have very little chance of progressing that far anyway.

Interview with Czech football expert Michal Petrák

Find all your Champions League betting odds here

A Europa League infographic

Author: Tom Mortimer

Tom is the editor at Betting Circle and has been creating online content for over 10 years. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer,, among many others.

Twitter @TMortimerFtbl

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