The proposed change to the Red Stripe Premier League format has been met with mixed reactions from coaches and football lovers alike. Rather than the straight league format, what is being proposed is a top eight after three rounds of games, with number one playing number eight, seven playing two, etc., somewhat similar to the play-off system in the NBA, except that this will now be on a home-and-away basis.
The proposed move has been scoffed at by those who feel that the winners of the league should simply be the team that accumulates the most points in the season, full stop. It's hard to argue against that. Rewarding the most consistent team with the Red Stripe trophy seems to be the fairest way to go. Were I the chairman of a Premier League club in Jamaica, especially one with a realistic chance of winning, I would be fighting tooth and nail to keep the straight league format.
There are other things to ponder, though. The spectators, a vital part of the equation, seem to prefer the system where there are quarter-finals, semi-finals and then the grand finale. It is not hard to understand why. There is a greater buzz, a greater atmosphere in these win-or-go-home games, which evokes a more compelling watching experience for the paying patron. So as a spectator, I would welcome the change.
The sponsors are also keen on the change, and were I a sponsor, I would be keen on the change, too. The sponsors clearly feel that the win-or-go-home games give them a better opportunity to market their products, because they can then concentrate on throwing their entire promotional machinery at these big one-off games, hopefully to bigger crowds.
So now we have three sets of people who have different interests: sponsors, spectators and teams, and a way must now be found to accommodate all three.
I think I may have found a way that could be the best compromise between all three stakeholders. First of all, I would reward the team that finishes with the most points with a sizeable cash award. I would insist that $5 million go to the team that tops the points standings. The coach of the winning team would also be individually rewarded, say, with a bonus prize of a million dollars. This would ensure that there is genuine interest and reward for the team that was most consistent throughout the season and ensure that teams play hard to be number one.
I would still keep the top eight teams in a knockout format leading up to the final, but I would now want there to be a greater incentive to finishing in the top four. I would still arrange it that the teams that finish in the top four should still play the teams in the bottom four of that top eight. I would still have number one playing number eight, number two playing number seven, and so on, but I wouldn't have it on a home-and-away basis at all.
I would give the top four teams the added incentive of playing both legs at home. That way, teams would still play hard even after comfortably knowing they will be in the top eight.
After the quarter-finals, when you are now down to four teams, the teams that finish in the top four in the regular season will also have 'home court' over the two legs of the semi-final. The final should also be staged over two legs, and again the team that finished higher in the points standing will be able to play both games at home.
Under this system, all boxes are ticked. The number one team on points is handsomely rewarded. Teams will play hard right throughout the season, not only to top the points standing, but also to finish in the top eight, and by extension, the top four, because the incentive of home advantage is always a potentially decisive factor.
Spectators would still get the thrill of the win-or-go-home games, and sponsors would still be able to have the big games to strut their stuff. I would also ensure that the prize money for the team that wins the league is identical to the money paid out for the top team on points at the end of the league, and the winning Premier League coach also gets a million dollars.
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk show host at KLAS FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.