My friend, Alan, pointed out to me that he thought the German football league promotion and relegation system is fairer than the English system. Let me explain – the bottom two teams in the German first division go down, and the top two teams in the second division go up. Then third from bottom in the first division plays against the third from the top in the second division. Whoever wins that game gets to go (or stay) into the first division. That’s it. So if you’re in the top 2 you are definitely going up, and if you are third you get a chance. Nice and simple, nice and fair. 

In England, the four teams placed between 3rd and 6th play a mini-tournament against each other to decide who goes up. It’s called the playoffs. This year that means that the 6th place team (Sheffield) could go up instead of the 3rd place team (Brighton) even though they earned 15 points less in the league season. It seems to defeat the purpose of having a league. To be honest, I don’t care either way. The English football leagues are so keen to have as many (lucrative, televised) games as possible that they’ll do anything to keep things going. Which is why the Premier League is such a success. The richest and most powerful league in the world! The poxy German “Bundesliga” only has 18 teams, a winter break, no play-offs and is definitely second-rate. Someone remind me again who won the last World Cup.

Anyway, this got me thinking about fairness. Here it is generally accepted that English football is “fairer” than most of the other leagues. And, to be fair, a lot of people commented on how little complaining the English team did in South Africa when they had a goal disallowed which was a good metre behind the line. Fairness, in German Gerechtigkeit, is an important thing. Sometimes, though, they are so concerned with everything being fair that things all get too complicated.

Take, for example, Autobahn tolls. The Swiss make you buy a sticker which lasts for a year. If you only need it for day it makes no difference – your choice. You pay, you drive. Simple to administer, no hassle and lots of income. The Austrians went for a little more fairness and you can buy one for 10 days, 2 months or a year. The Germans are still arguing about it. There have been so many proposals and counter-proposals that they never manage to agree on anything. Everyone is so concerned that it should be fair. And at the moment it is pretty fair – nobody pays anything (except me, the humble taxpayer).

We always had the same problem at work when we were trying to work out bonus systems. They started off simple, but after a few people had given their “input” then they became theoretically fair but practically unworkable. But I do wonder if this fight for fairness is not based solely on moral reasons, but is based upon a much darker emotion – jealousy. The German word for jealousy is “Neid” (actually pronounced nite) and the expression Neidgesellschaft (jealous society) is not uncommon. It’s true. There is certainly a stronger tendency here to be not only concerned how well you are doing, but to be sure that nobody else is doing any better. Especially in a larger work environment. Lots of people are very tuned into who earns what and if you name somebody “Team Leader” that you perhaps shouldn’t have then all hell breaks loose. Suddenly everyone will want a title. There’s even a word for someone who is keen to receive an important work title – Titelgeil!

I am usually quite positive about Germany, after all I choose to live here, but that’s one of the bad points. The Neidgesellschaft isn’t nice. But of course if everyone is looking at everyone else to make sure they are being treated equally, then you have to be very fair. Every cloud has a silver lining after all. I know it’s not really fair but I hope that Sheffield do go up and Brighton* don’t. Sheffield are from Yorkshire so fairness doesn’t come into it.

Bis morgen!

*they won’t – already knocked out.

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