This position paper is being submitted to the Executive Committee of the United Football League (UFL, “the League”) in response to guidance provided at the Technical Committee meeting among representatives of the League and teams in Division 2.
The position that is being taken is for a promotion and relegation system outlined as follows:
- Bottom two teams in Division 1 to be automatically relegated to Division 2.
- Top two teams in Division 2 to be automatically promoted to Division 1.
- The 3rd team from the bottom of the table (currently 8th place team) in Division 1 enters into a play-off with the 3rdplace team in Division 2.
- Play-off format will be a 2-leg aggregate result competition.
- The winning team will be promoted to/retained in Division 1
- The losing team will be relegated to/retained in Division 2
The proposed implementation for this system is the current 2012 season of the UFL.
Rationale for Expanded Relegation and Promotion System
The rationale for the system being advanced for the league is two-fold:
- It aligns the UFL with convention across leagues in the world; and,
- It promotes and elevates the level of the competition which should redound to the benefit of the League.
The practice in most significant leagues is for multiple teams to be relegated and promoted between competition tiers. By and of itself, this will not necessarily be a basis for adopting this mode of competition. We are of the position, however, elevates the credibility of the UFL as the Premier League of the Philippines.
A sampling of the various systems of leagues governing relegation and promotion is presented below.
English Football League System
Premier League: Bottom three teams relegated. Football League Championship: Top two automatically promoted; next four compete in the playoffs, with the winner gaining the third promotion spot. Bottom three relegated.
Argentine Primera División: relegates the two teams with the lowest average points per match over a three year period, and teams placed 17th and 18th in the average points per match table play-off against the 3rd and 4th placed sides of that season’s Nacional B table. The 1st and 2nd placed teams in the Nacional B are directly promoted to Primera Division, without a play-off.
Brazilian Campeonato Brasileiro Série A: relegates four teams with lowest score to Campeonato Brasileiro Série B and promotes the first four from it.
Spain, France, Greece
Spanish La Liga, French Ligue 1, Greek Super League: All relegate the bottom three teams, with the top three teams from the second divisions – respectively the Segunda División, Ligue 2, and the Football League – automatically promoted.
Germany, Vietnam, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Japan
German Bundesliga: Bottom two teams automatically relegated, top two teams from the Second Bundesliga automatically promoted. Third team from bottom of the First Bundesliga plays a two-legged playoff with the third-place team of the Second Bundesliga, with the winner playing in the First Bundesliga. It is also being adopted in Vietnam, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Japan
Italian Serie A: Bottom three teams relegated. Top two teams from Serie B automatically promoted. If the difference between third and fourth place is less than ten points, the next four teams play off, with the winner gaining the third promotion spot; otherwise the third placed team is promoted.
Portuguese Primeira Liga and Russian Premier League: Bottom two teams relegated. Top two teams from the second divisions, respectively Liga de Honra and the National League Championship, automatically promoted.
Dutch Eredivisie: Bottom team automatically relegated; top team in Eerste Divisie automatically promoted. The next two lowest Eredivisie teams enter a relatively complex play-off system with the eight best remaining teams from the Eerste Divisie (the six winners of six-match periodes plus the two best other teams); the two winners are promoted to or remain in the premier division.
Scottish Premier League: Bottom team relegated and top team in Scottish First Division automatically promoted if its playing ground meets Premier League standards. Otherwise, the bottom team will remain in the Premier League.
The Elevation of Competition
More than adopting global convention, the expansion of the system will serve to elevate the level of competition.
The Psychological Effect of Survival and Achievement on Competition
Two of the main drivers of enhanced competition are survival and achievement. The more teams feel the prospective effects of relegation or promotion, the more games will be made more competitive. More games will become relevant and be taken more seriously by teams for a longer period of time.
At the beginning of the season, each team feels the sense of what is possible. That possibility stems from each team starting even and the expectation of competing for the championship. Whether these are realistic possibilities or not is beside the point. Optimism is generally high at the beginning of competitions.
As the league progresses through its season, match results and the weaning of contenders from pretenders begins to change the complexion of competition. The relative strengths of each team gradually become apparent. The reality, at this stage of the UFL’s existence, is that there will be a few dominant teams and a few who may not necessarily be competitive due to limited talent or other factors.
It is not unrealistic to expect that the distance between the top-tier teams and the lower-tier teams within the same division will become a wide gulf. This could lead to the prospect of less compelling games for teams who find themselves in the middle of the table with no realistic chance of competing for the championship while also not being in danger of being relegated under a 1 relegation, 1 promotion system.
This competitive dynamic will change when more teams face the possibility of relegation. It is likely that the bottom-half of the Division 1 table will become even more competitive. More matches will become relevant. This will particularly be important towards the end of the second half of the season where teams are likely to find themselves with no realistic chance of competing for the league championship. These teams will have to continue to compete in individual matches due to the real prospect of prospectively becoming relegated.
This same dynamic will likely be observed for Division 2 where teams at the bottom half of the table may find themselves with no realistic chance of competing for the Division championship but could remain in contention for promotion through the proposed play-off system. The motivation to compete may be different but the impact on games of the proposed system will be the same – more relevant and competitive matches.
Finally, more team managements will be compelled to continue to provide resources to support their teams given the reality of relegation or promotion in their respective cases.
More Compelling Storyline for the League
This system will also serve to maintain and even enhance the level of engagement of fans in the league at the end of the season. There will be seasons where only a single (or two and even three) team/s will have a chance at the league championship. This will render many matches meaningless unless the prospect of relegation or promotion remains a distinct and real possibility for more teams.
The play-off system should make for a compelling storyline at the end of the season and allow the season to end with a bang instead of a whimper. A team running away with the league championship will likely have “audiences” making their way towards the exits before the season actually ends. Put in the proposed system, however, and interest will remain until the final match of the season.
Protecting the Integrity of the Game
By having more matches remaining relevant all throughout the season, the prospect of blow-outs between teams with diverging motivations (one competing for championship, one not caring) becomes minimized. This will be because the team which would not have cared now has to think about either relegation or continued hope in reaching a play-off. More competitive and relevant matches will serve to protect the integrity of the game and how it is played.
An expanded relegation and promotion system as propounded by this position paper will be of significant benefit to the UFL because:
- It enhances its credibility as the Philippines premier league by adopting global convention;
- It provides the psychological impetus for teams to remain competitive over the course of the entire season;
- It provides a compelling storyline for the league particularly at the end of the season where fan fatigue could be a factor; and,
- It protects the integrity of the game by mitigating the risk of uncompetitive matches.
We submit this position and pray that the UFL Executive Committee adopt the expanded relegation and promotion system as propounded.