The State of Lithuanian Club Football

May 27, 2019

Written by:

A Lyga

Founded: 1991

Most Championships: FBK Kaunas, 8

Last 5 Winners: Suduva Marijampole (18, 17), Zalgiris Vilnius(16, 15, 14)

UEFA Ranking: 41st

Highest Ranked Club: Zalgiris Vilnius, 179th


Interview with Lithuanian Football Manager head researcher Milos Tasic and Football Manager assistant researcher Dennis Godtfredsen

Lithuanian Clubs have had some encouraging results in European competitions recently, but since the Europa League was rebranded no Lithuanian club has made the Champions League or EL group stage. What’s the current state of Lithuanian football?

Dennis: They have had some good results in the past two years, at least by Lithuanian standards. Especially the last two years champions Suduva have done well by reaching the playoffs in the EL the last two seasons.

Overall the state of Lithuanian football is quite mixed I would say. If we are talking about the top league, then it seems as if it’s starting to improve a little bit, that’s at least what the European results are showing us. But there is still some way to go. The infrastructure is not that great still, the matches receive low attendances and we see occasional money problems too within the clubs.

The quality level is also not that great. If we are talking about the national team then it’s another story. It’s like the national team is falling behind nations who they were once much better than. The youth national teams are also getting trashed more than they are winning, which again has something to do with the apparent lack of infrastructure and/or organisation.

Milos: Not much else to add here, I believe Dennis has summed it up very well. Generally speaking, there’s no real stability in Lithuanian football at the moment, which leads to a lot of fluctuations in the form and success of Lithuanian teams participating in European competitions. Without a firm plan by the FA, not much more can be realistically expected.

What do Lithuanian fans and teams expect from their European campaigns and what would qualify as a success?

Dennis: That’s a difficult question. I don’t think that the fans expect too much, to be honest. Of course, it’s a big achievement in the eyes of the fans to reach the playoff round like Suduva have done the last two years, but I don’t think that they are expecting to reach the group stages.

Milos: Again, not much else to add here. I’ll offer another perspective when answering the “money” question that will cover this as well.

How much do the fans and teams look forward to European competition?

Dennis: I think that’s something that every fan or club look forward to each year, Lithuanian fans and clubs are no different. The league is also organised so that no matches are played in the period where Lithuanian teams are playing European matches.

Milos: Just to clarify things here, if you’re not aware already, football seasons in Lithuania are single calendar-year seasons, operating on a spring-to-autumn cycle, with a summer break during which Lithuanian clubs are free to play their qualifying matches with fewer domestic duties.

Is there any money in Lithuanian football?

Dennis: Not really, to be honest and that’s one of the biggest problems. Not only for clubs but in general. The biggest budget in the top league is probably around €2 million which is very low compared just to European medium-sized clubs.

Milos: What Dennis fails to mention here is, in my opinion, is one of the most important reasons behind the current state of football in Lithuania. The fact is that, unlike in the majority of European countries, football is simply not the most popular sport in Lithuania, and where there’s no clear route for return on investment, which simply has to be based on fans as one of the most secure sources of income, among other things, I can’t see any major influx of money into Lithuanian football in the near future.

Speaking from the perspective of Football Manager, for example, Lithuania is one of the countries in which the least interest is expressed by fans and gamers from the country itself, which is a crucial reason why it’s still an unplayable country in the game. Furthermore, from my own experience, bearing in mind that I am the head researcher for Estonia and Latvia as well, I have had major problems in securing a decent assistant from Lithuania for years, even worse when compared to the other Baltic states.

In contrast to other countries, there are simply no people truly interested in assisting with the work on the Lithuanian database. Thankfully, I have finally found a dedicated person in Dennis. This clear lack of interest and, at least I believe, the perception of Lithuanian football as not very commercially profitable, is perhaps the most important reason behind the current financial state of Lithuanian football and the fact that its top division is basically only a level above amateur football.

How do you think Europa League 2 will affect the Lithuanian sides?

Dennis: I think it could be very good for Lithuanian clubs with a tournament like this. Here they should get a chance to meet very equal teams, perhaps earn some more money and therefore develop themselves but also Lithuanian football in general. The question is of course how much money there will be in a tournament like that.

Milos: I agree with Dennis on this. More time in European competitions might be the best possible way for Lithuanian football to rise above its current status and attract more fans and larger investments. I simply can’t see the introduction of new opportunities for playing on the European stage as having a negative effect on Lithuanian clubs.

Do you think UEFA are doing enough to help the minnows of European football and what can they do to further help them?

Dennis: Not really to be honest. Even though I don’t like it I understand that it is money that decides how things work. It’s like this in all other life situations. The ones with the money run the show.

I have the opinion that if they really want to change the format to the benefit of the richest clubs then the richest clubs also have to go on compromise with some things. So, if they really want to create a European Superleague then why not do it like this: Top five and the cup winners from England, Spain, Germany and Italy. Top three and cup winners from France and Italy which is 32 teams, play each other home and away in a group stage as we know it from now and then knockout stages after new year, double up the Champions League prize money, then create a Euroleague with qualification and a 64 teams group stage, home and away, and knockout stages after new year. Clubs from top six leagues cannot play in this tournament, that must be the first compromise the top leagues must swallow if they want their Superleague.

Perhaps make it possible for the winner or the two finalists to play in the next season of the Superleague by removing one or two spots from a couple of the top six nations. That’s the second compromise. And then, of course, use the current Champions League prize money system here. That’s the third compromise. In that way, we might have a divided Europe, but we will have two tournaments where equal teams are meeting each other, and we will see clubs who suddenly can earn a lot of money and therefore have better options to develop themselves but also the football in that nation in general. Imagine what €20 million would do for a Lithuanian club? That would in fact be very realistic with this format. Now it’s almost impossible for a Lithuanian club to qualify to Champions League and get that money. And the EL too.

Milos: Following this detailed proposal, I’d just like to add that the steps that UEFA has been taking over the last couple of decades certainly do not appear as intended to help the minnows of European football, as you call them.

Here, as well, money comes first, and the changes that we have seen over the years have all been introduced primarily with the aim of increasing the profit. As we all know, it’s really hard to see a club from Eastern Europe, for example, winning another Champions League like they did back in the 1980s or the very beginning of the 1990s, and I can’t see how UEFA can do anything substantial about it now.

I feel we are too far gone in the direction first taken at the end of the last century, and whatever is being done now will not really be of any major help to clubs from these countries. Unfortunately, I’m not even sure how this could be changed.

Interview with Lithuanian Football Manager head researcher Milos Tasic and Football Manager assistant researcher Dennis Godtfredsen

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 HungarianFootball.com and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer, Goal.com, among many others.

Twitter @TMortimerFtbl


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