The British American Football Association yesterday shared news that they had completed a consultation process exploring whether to change the format of the top tier of the British game - reducing the number of teams and altering the promotion/relegation system in order to produce a more competitive regular season at the highest tier of Britball.
Following consultation with the teams involved, BAFA have currently opted to not instigate the format change ahead of the 2019 season, though decision has yet been reached as to whether this may be an option looked at for future seasons.
As part of the planning process for the 2019 season, BAFA undertook a consultation exercise to explore the feasibility of a reduced top-tier.
BAFA Premier Team Consultation
As part of the planning process for the 2019 season, BAFA undertook a consultation exercise with the twelve Premier teams to explore the feasibility of a reduced (10 team) top tier which would include two cross-conference games (North v South) for each team.
BAFA explained that the reasoning for this consultation was they felt it would have created more competitive games in the schedule. The benefit of this is that with fewer blowout games it would a make the league more commercially attractive to potential sponsors and create a better product for spectators. In addition to this, they would aim to counter any schedule imbalance with an additional playoff place in both the North and South divisions.
If the reduced Premier division changes went ahead, the Division one playoff structure would have ended at the Regional Final stage and the Regional Champions in Division 1 would have played the 5th placed teams in the top tier for Promotion/Relegation.
With every proposed change to the sport, there are always challenges that need to be addressed. The main downside to this change meant that the two 5th placed Premier teams from last year would be relegated and that each team in the new 10 team structure would have one longer than normal away trip.
The feedback from the teams was reported as being mixed with some accepting the idea of the new structure and others expressing concerns. Some of the concerns they received were:
- Additional away trip costs
- Fairness of the additional relegations
- Balance of the Schedule
- The additional playoff game
- Speculative benefits of the change
A number of teams suggested that this change should be deferred until 2020 to allow teams to go into the 2019 competition knowing they would be at risk of relegation if they finished 5th in their division.
Having listened to the feedback from the consultation process BAFA have decided not to make any changes to the competition structure for 2019.
They will continue to talk to the teams about the potential to increase competition in the top tier but no decision has been taken to make the change in 2020, therefore the Division 1 playoff structure will remain as it is for 2019.
“As these changes impact our members in a significant way, we felt it was essential to get their views on the suggested changes.” - Steve Rains BAFA Operations Director
Steve Rains goes onto say
“We fully appreciate the thoughts on fairness towards Edinburgh and Farnham - it would have been tough on them but it would not have been a change without precedent. The more pressing issue was that one longer away trip or an additional playoff game is currently beyond the financial capability of some of our leading teams - on that basis we felt we could not go ahead and that the delay until 2020 is not a viable option unless circumstances change. What this illustrates is that while there is a call for more competitive games, finding the solution, even though a relatively minor change, is not going to be easy. We will continue to consult and work with the clubs to see how we can find a viable solution to some of these challenges going forward.”
In line with the promise BAFA made at the AGM, work is close to completion on both alignments and the provisional schedule. There will be some minor adjustments to alignments in lower Divisions to account for geography following the promotions and relegations and the introduction of any new teams who make it through the Associate Process.
Teams are reminded that to be included in the provisional schedule they must re-register by the 1 November deadline.