Photo: Montego Bay United celebrate winning the Red Stripe Premier League last season.
The 2016 Rio Olympics is now history. Though the sweet taste of victory from Jamaica's stellar performances in Brazil still lingers on ones lips, all the attention is now turned to the opening day of the Red Stripe Premier League.
Not only will spectators embrace the likes of the two new comers Jamalco FC and Marverley/Hughenden FC- one for the first time and the other after a 22 year absence in the nation's top flight- but they will also have to lend themselves to a new league format.
The competition will see yet another new format after it was changed a few years ago. The competition will now have half of the teams taking part in the nation's top league, qualifying for the play-offs. The top two teams on points would gain automatic berths to the semi-finals, while the next four teams will vie for the remaining two places in a home and away fixture.
This format is used in Australia in the Hyundai 'A' League, where the two top teams on points will wait on the winner from 3rd vs 6th match up and 4th vs 5th match up. The winners from a two leg semi final will progress to the finals. This format, it is understood, would see the teams playing each other once in the first round. The order of the games would change for the second round, and it is said that the teams would be seeded according to first-round placings.
The third round would mirror the first round with the top six teams on points advancing to the play-offs.
Carvel Stewart, vice-Chairman of the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA) added that this move will add a little more excitement for the fans and provide more revenue.
Many would argue that when a team has established a formidable lead, it takes away from the 'excitement and uncertainty' of the league. This form of competition (league format) is fashioned extensively across Europe. The only reason you will have fans turning out in large numbers in cases like these where you have a run away leader is because of their loyalty to the club they support, bragging rights in rival games or the anxiety surrounds team in the drop zone.
When Yardie Sports questioned a supporter from Arnett Gardens about the rational behind such a change he said, "it would only water down the competition and it might be a ploy to keep the corporate area teams in the final four".
Another supporter from Portmore United said, "it will generate excitement to the competition and will keep more clubs involved longer." In addition to the change of the league format, viewers have more reasons to smile as Sunday games will be aired live on Television Jamaica at 3pm and Monday at 9pm.
Twelve teams will compete in the league – the top ten teams from the previous season, as well as two teams promoted from the playoffs.
Jamalco FC became the first club to be promoted after a 1–0 win against Brazil FC on 2 June 2016 which meant they were guaranteed an automatic place. Marverley/Hughenden FC after a 22 year absence from the top flight became the second club to be promoted, after a 1–1 draw with Jamalco FC on the 13 of June 2016. This meant they finished on 9 points to secure the second automatic spot. The two promoted clubs replace Rivoli United and Cavaliers Soccer Club, who were demoted after a torrid season.
The 2016-17 season of the RSPL is scheduled to kick off on Sunday, September 4. Defending champions Montego Bay United will begin their title defence welcoming newly promoted Marverly FC at home. Former champions Arnett Gardens will host a rejuvenated Reno FC, while beaten finalist Portmore United will be at home to new comers Jamalco FC in their first Clarendon derby.
The pragmatic Donovan Duckie returns to the helm at Humble Lion and they will get their campaign up and running against Boys Town. UWI FC with the Coach of the Year for 2015-2016 Marcel Gayle, will kick start their quest for glory at home against Waterhouse FC. Former champions Arnett Gardens will battle Reno at the Barbican Football Stadium.
The day's final fixture will see two former champions Harbour View FC and Tivoli Gardens FC lock-horns at the Harbour View Mini Stadium.
All games will start at 3:30pm except for Harbour View vs Tivoli Gardens at 7pm.