The United Football League announced a new relegation format on Tuesday. Under the new rules, instead of only the last-place team being brought down to the second division, now four teams will be relegated in the 2014 league.
“This will help raise the standard of play in the league, which will make for more exciting football” said league board member Randy Roxas. There are nine teams in the UFL first division and ten in the second tier.
Many football leagues with multiple tiers employ a relegation-promotion system to ensure that teams play sides of their standard. For example, in England, three teams from the second-tier Championship division go up to the Premier League to replace the three weakest teams from the top flight.
The decision was made in the UFL’s most recent board meeting held over the weekend. The proposal was overwhelmingly approved by a 9-2 vote with one abstention.
In the 2013 UFL league, Team Socceroo, champs of Division 2, joined the first division, while last-place Philippine Air Force tumbled down to the second level.
But the UFL thinks that with four teams facing the threat of second-division play in the 2015 league, teams will work harder to avoid that fate.
“Every player will run harder for a loose ball, every striker will make sure to aim his attempts better, and every keeper will dive that extra inch for a save” said Roxas. “I think fans will be the winners here.”
Apart from directly demoting the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth placers, the league will also pit the fifth-place team at the end of league play in a two-legged playoff series with the fifth-placer from the second division. Last year the second-to-the-last Division One team, Army, staved off relegation by defeating Division 2 second-placer Union Internacional Manila in a two-legged aggregate-goals series.
“We think that with the quality of play of the second division rising so much recently, it is time for this move” added board member Phil Hagedorn. “Myself and the board members agree that it is the best for Philippine football going forward.”
When asked about the possibility of more teams being relegated than staying up in the top flight, Roxas replied “this is the sacrifice we have to make to raise the level of play.” He also noted that the representatives of the current fifth and sixth-place teams in the first division standings surprisingly voted for the change in the relegation policy.
In an added twist, it was revealed that the last-place team in the UFL Division one would not actually go down to the UFL Division 2, but will play in the third-tier Weekend Futbol League headed by Joey Prats.
“This may come as a surprise to some fans but I am sure that in the long run it will be the right thing to do” said Hagedorn.
The UFL league season is set to end in June just before the FIFA World Cup.
“We are excited about the new format and we think the fans will love it too” said a beaming Hagedorn after the UFL board meeting, which was held in Cowboy Grill Malate.
“I think it is a positive step towards uplifting Pinoy Football” said Roxas.
“And if you have read this far” said Roxas, who is also Loyola vice-Chairman, “then I guess by now you’ll know that this is just one of Bob’s nasty April Fool’s jokes, just like the one you all fell for last year. Have a nice day.”