Oral Tracey: RSPL format works
It has been a constant going around in circles in recent years as it relates to the format for the top local football league, now the Red Strip Premier League (RSPL).
Four seasons ago, the semi-final and final playoff knockout format was restored after yet another cycle of having the traditional league format, where the champion was the team that accumulated most points at the end of the season.
The conventional league format was always the most just and credible way to go. It smacked of injustice and lacking total integrity to have a team accumulating the best record and most points at the end of the regular season, then having one bad game in a concocted semi-final and final knockout game against a team that finished in fourth spot 10 or 15 points adrift the top team, then that fourthplace team could go on to be crowned league champions.
There still remains a certain level of innate unfairness in that kind of scenario.
This is one of those occasions on which I have been convinced by the unfolding reality to reconsider my previous position. It is a matter of the good of the situation outweighing the bad of the situation.
The dynamics of the local football reality make it an unfair comparison to make between our top-flight football in Jamaica and what obtains in the elite leagues of England, Spain and Italy. These leagues have the advantage of huge television deals, more vibrant and richer economies and better infrastructure, which all contribute to better general spectator attendance and a more viable product to market throughout the season.
IRRELEVANT, BORING AND USELESS
The current format of the RSPL, with the top four teams pooled into a post regular season knockout phase, has worked and continues to work. The level of interest and buzz generated by the approach to the 'playoffs', as well as during the current phase, has increased exponentially. There was no disputing the fact that the four top teams in the league, on merit, all made it to the knockout round Montego Bay United, Portmore United, Arnett Gardens and Humble Lion were all rewarded for their consistency and that, of course, helped in the selling of the playoff intrigue and drama.
There is also a particular spectacle and almost guaranteed excitement associated with a knockout series that does not exist in the straight league format, where there is always the possibility of one team running from the pack leading by 10 or 15 points, which would render the last three or four games of the season irrelevant, boring and useless.
There is no possibility of that happening in a knockout play-to-win scenario. It is also quite instructive that in other regional football jurisdictions such as Mexico, the USA and Costa Rica, and in the majority of the South America countries, it is the post-season knockout format that is used to determine the national league champions.
While there can be no real value placed on the unfortunate scenario of the best and most consistent team throughout the season losing a knockout semi-final or final, thus losing the league title, there is some credence to the decision to offer the top performing team at the end of the regular season $1m incentive.
All things considered, the format of the RSPL working and is working well.
The intensity and interest at this point in the season, as they have been ever since the re introduction of this format, are at an all-time high and I suspect that most, if not all, the previous dissenting voices against this format, have been duly silenced by its success.