From time to time, the coaches of Premiership football clubs call for their development teams (usually for under 23s with a limited number of older players) to be allowed to play in the Championship or League 1 to give them more competitive games. Such proposals are usually strongly resisted by the lower leagues, as an attack in the integrity of their divisions. In this short post, I will try to show that league competitions can be constructed in a way that allows for the needs of the higher league Development teams and yet retains the integrity of the lower league competition and perhaps even enhances it. The method outlined is not just applicable to the football Premiership and Championship, but could be applied to other sports at all levels where there is a similar of “second” trams playing those in lower leagues.
Suppose we have 20 higher division developmemt teams and 24 lower division teams (the current numbers in the Premiership and Championship). We divide each group into two – HD1 and HD2 for the higher division development teams (10 in each group) and L1 and L2 for the lower league teams (12 in each group). The teams would play each other as follows.
- L1 teams would play all the other L1 teams home and way (22 matches), the L2 teams once, half home and half away (12 games) and the HD1 teams once at home (10 games), giving 44 games in total (27 home, 17 away).
- L2 teams would play all the other L2 teams home and way (22 matches), the L1 teams once, half home and half away (12 games) and the HD2 teams once at home (10 games), giving 44 games in total (27 home, 17 away).
- HD1 teams would play all the other HD1 teams once, half home and half away (9 games) and the L1 teams once way (12 games), giving 21 games in total (4/5 home, 17/16 away).
- HD2 teams would play all the other HD2 teams once, half home and half away (9 games) and the L2 teams once away (12 games), giving 21 games in total (4/5 home, 17/16 away).
- L1 and L2 teams would be ranked separately on the basis of all games played, with the winners of each playing for the L title of that division. Both would be automatically promoted to the league above, with the second and third place teams in each section playing off for other promotion places.
- HD1 and HD2 teams would be ranked separately on the basis of all games played, with the winners of each playing for the title of the HD section of that division .
This format thus ensures the following.
- The lower league teams and the development teams of the higher league teams would be ranked in separate divisions, even though there is some cross over on the teams that are played.
- All teams would be ranked only alongside those teams that have played the same opponents the same number of times, ensuring integrity of competition.
- The lower leagues teams would play a similar number of games to those that would be played in a conventional competition (44 as against 46), but with an increased number of potentially attractive home games against the higher league development teams.
- The higher league development teams would play a significantly smaller number of games than the lower league teams, which conforms with current practice for such sides (for example on the Premier 2 league, teams play around 14 to 15 games in a season). All the games they play against the lower league sides can be expected to be very competitive.