How Hypercube helped revamp Romania’s football cup

15 July 2022 3 min. read

Romania’s football governing body has tapped experts from Hypercube, as it looks to make its leading cup competition more attractive to fans and sponsors. The consultancy’s plan includes a new group stage for top teams, and is set to be introduced in the 2022/23 season.

The Cupa României is a football cup competition hosted by the Federația Română de Fotbal (FRF) annually since 1933. Currently, the winner of the competition is granted a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers and plays the Supercupa României.

Equivalent to England’s FA Cup, Cupa României is the country's main cup competition, being open to all clubs affiliated with the FRF and the county football associations, regardless of which league they are active in.

How Hypercube helped revamp Romania’s football cup

Despite this openness, however, the cup has historically been dominated by teams based in Romania’s capital. Bucharest-based teams are perennial champions, with the most successful performers being FC Steaua București with 23 trophies, followed by Rapid București and Dinamo București with 13 each.

As a result, Romania’s top cup tournament has struggled to attract wider attention in recent years, and top clubs are currently perceived as not taking the cup tournament especially seriously. This was something the FRF was looking to remedy when it asked consultants from Hypercube to investigate how the competition could be made more exciting for the clubs and the public.

One of the key hopes for the FRF is that the tournament draws a higher match volume – subject to the condition that the playing calendar is not overloaded. Meanwhile, there was also a desire to limit the expensive travel time involved for smaller clubs.

Revamping the cup’s structure

Hypercube set to work, and soon devised a drastic overhaul of the system which has been in place since the 2009-10 season. That was a more traditional round-robin system leading to a two-legged semi-final stage and a single final (a familiar set up to viewers of England’s EFL Cup).

But Hypercube has now proposed adding a group stage, which allows more matches to be played between the highest-level competitors, while still using the same calendar of games.

The tournament starts ‘in the traditional way’ with several knock-out rounds between amateur clubs and lower-ranked clubs. To minimise travel among smaller clubs with lower budgets in the first rounds, teams meet within their own regions. These rounds whittle down clubs from hundreds of entrants to a remaining eight. Then the eight highest ranked teams from Romania’s Liga I enter the fray.

With 16 teams left, four groups are formed of four teams each. The two best-performing clubs from each group advance to the quarter-finals, followed by the semi-finals and final. The advantage of this system is that every club plays at least 3 matches in the group stage, where normally a club would have been eliminated immediately after a lost knockout match.

In addition, the strongest teams also play against each other in the group stage, which means that more competitive matches are on the programme.

With more high-level encounters to weigh up, the plan is hoped to see the largest clubs re-evaluate how seriously they take the Cupa României. At the same time, with more top-tier clashes on display, it is believed this will give fans a more exciting football experience to engage with.

The idea has been received with great enthusiasm by the clubs of both the lower and the higher levels. The plans will be introduced from the 2022/23 season, and the re-jigged format already looks to have drummed up new corporate interest, bringing in a new sponsor and increasing proceeds by as much as 50%.