S.LEAGUE FORMAT 2013
Anyway, a recap of our new league format:
- Usual 2-round home-and-away format, followed by 2 post-season mini-leagues:
- Top 7 teams to playoff in a top-half mini-league (let's call it "Div 1")
- Bottom 6 teams playoff in a bottom-half mini-league ("Div 2")
- To determine final league positions
As expected, widespread skeptism, including this writer, abounded:
- "Who's going to watch Div 2?"
- "Takes away the unpredictability of, say, Hougang shocking Albirex 3-2!" (basically, every lower-end club wants the excitement to be king-makers, right?)
And so, to delve into the minds of the policy-makers in FAS and/or S.League CEO Lim Chin's team:
Apart from the usual trying-to-create-buzz-bring-back-fans attempt, two sound rationale came to mind:
1) Too few games/too many games
2011, 3-round format. Way too long.
2012, 2-round format. WAY TOO FEW GAMES.
Here we have our Hougang United players and fans, sitting around waiting for ONE WHOLE MONTH after drawing with SAFFC 2-2, for our next huge match vs Brunei DPMM. That loss of momentum is probably our bigger threat to our record (thus far) 9-match unbeaten run than DPMM itself!
So, if 2 rounds too short, 3 rounds too long - might as well have 2 and a half right?
*started to warm up to the new format*
2) Promotion-relegation criteria
Question: who thinks we should have a permanent-relegation league system?
Yes, almost all of us - for this writer, it's primarily because he wants S.League to score more points with AFC for our future Asian Champions League spot!
Now, hand on heart: who thinks our amateur NFL Div 1 league is ready to send their teams up to the professional S.League?
Therein lies the problem. In creating a mini-league, is our baby step towards hopefully our far-future full-fledged promotion-relegation system. And who knows, maybe earn a few points towards getting increased allocation of Asian Champions League / AFC Cup slots for our S.League sides.
*getting warmer now*
With hardly any incentives for bottom-teams to fight hard for league positions (let's put aside rumoured mis-management of clubs by, well, a few club managements for now), by itself the implementation of the post-season mini-leagues is doomed to abject failure. Who's going to bother about Div 2??
Hence, the post-season mini-leagues have to be implemented in conjunction with...
NEW MONETARY INCENTIVES
FAS also announced new carrots for the league champions - S$250,000 prize money (up from the S$100,000).
Not that money is an only incentive, but given that monetary incentive can be quite the motivator for a competitive league - even the English Premier League has monetary award for every league position finish - here's a suggestion:
Champions to be awarded:
S$250,000 (with AFC cup slot / future ACL slot)
Runners up: S$150,000 (future AFC cup playoff with Div 2 Plate winner)
8th (plate champions): S$30,000 (future AFC cup playoff with Div 1 runners-up)
13th: No award (Timber!)
Total monetary incentive budget: S$354,000
(even less than an earlier suggestion of S$576,000 by this writer!!)
- This way, most teams would try to vie for Div 1 (due to greater monetary incentives overall);
- Those in Div 2 will still try to get the top spot (as the Div 2 champion will earn more than the last position), maybe even be awarded a Plate trophy.
Who knows, eventually maybe even have a qualifying run-off for an AFC Cup spot if the S.League is awarded one more AFC Cup slot (e.g. Div 1 runner-ups vs Div 2 plate champion?)
- Every league position will be fought for, similar to that in the EPL where EVERY league position is rewarded financially.
At the end of the day, FAS needs to invest big and creatively, to create a competitive league where fans are emotionally invested in each team's success. Then the return of fans would begin. Small baby steps, long-term investments, future success.
Long live our S.League!
(and to keep the dream of our Hougang United in the Asian Champions League alive!)