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Thursday the 18th October and BAFA released a news bite saying they had undertaken a consultation to question whether a reduced top tier was the way forward. This would involve essentially the Prem being reduced from 12 teams to 10, with a two cross-conference games (North vs South) during the season.

BAFA were pretty honest about how this was met, ‘…feedback from the teams was mix with some accepting the idea of the new structure and the others expressing concerns.’ Not that BAFA need to say but I can take a wild guess at who was happy and who wasn’t. Phoenix, Warriors, Blitz; probably happy. I don’t include the Titans because a logistically minded individual would know that Manchester to Kent is a ridiculous journey. Unhappy? Farnham and Edinburgh, who would likely face demotion.

 

Steve Rains, Operations Director, said: “As these changes impact our members in a significant way, we felt it was essential to get their views on the suggested changes. 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 play off 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 through 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.”

 

This article though needs to examine a couple more things, in order to look at the due diligence:

The feedback from the teams was mixed with some accepting the idea of the new structure and others expressing concerns. Some of the concerns we received were:

– Additional away trip costs
– Fairness of the additional relegations
– Balance of the Schedule
– The additional play-off game
– Speculative benefits of the change

 

Additional away trips.

The furthest team South is a bit of a toss up between the Kent Exiles and the Bristol Aztecs. I’m giving it to the Exiles for a good reason that you’ll see in a moment. The Furthest North is Manchester, with a grand distance of 233 miles. By removing Edinburgh, you do knock off approximately 230 miles. The journey according to googles maps for Jun 22, 2019 is around 4 hour 15 minutes. It’s about £525 to hire a coach for the day. A 52-man roster would have to each contribute £10 for a journey to make it cost neutral.

Fairness of the additional relegations.

Is it fair that the Wolves and Knights be relegated? Questionable, because you wonder to what extent certain teams took tactical forfeits against better teams in order to secure their future in the Prem. Said team may well now believe that they’ve placed themselves in a more precarious position for no gain. What effect will have on the teams is also important. With this decision, Scotland will have zero teams in the Prem. It’s likely that Scottish talent will consider University etc in order to play for more competitive teams. The Derby Braves are a Uni on the rise, within touching distance of the Phoenix. Why play for the Stirling Clansman when adult football is such a dip? This may seem controversial, but there will be those who think it, and this may well hit the Wolves and the Pirates especially hard. More pressure on them to bounce straight back this year.

Balance of the schedule.

Who plays when? Well, what if you’re schedule is tight, you need to win 1 more game to be safe, or secure that playoff spot. You’re next game? It’s 4 hours away, you’re 12 weeks into the season, your significant other will stay home with the kids, you’re tired from a hard week at work. You decide it’ll make no difference if you skip this one for work. Except, so do half your team mates, and before you know it, you’ve fielded 30 players for the longest game of the year and missed out. The team that would be doing something similar? They’re big away game was in week 3, when people were still keen to play.

The Extra Playoff Game.

Here’s perhaps the biggest under the radar problem. You finish top of Division 1 North, you won the regional final, now you have to play the 5th placed team from the Prem. Apart from the differing number of games, the Prem team will have played 10 games, a div 1 team by this point may have played 12 games or possibly more with the new structure. On the line is avoiding relegation for the Prem team. Do we risk having a perpetual Prem? After all, 2 weeks of prep with avoiding relegation on the line, how many teams won’t show up for that? You can bet the Wolves would have turned up ready to fight Leicester. The Knights may well have chosen to play all their regular season games, ready to face the Exiles.

Speculative benefits of the change.

BAFA spelt it out in their note: The reasoning for this consultation was we felt it would have created more competitive games in the schedule. The benefit of this is that with less blowout results it would a make the league more commercially attractive to potential sponsors and create a better product for spectators. In addition to this we would aim to to counter any schedule imbalance with an additional playoff place in both North and South. These are potentially incredibly positive upsides to a restructure, but this is speculative. Will there be a dramatic U-turn if things don’t go right? This would have a detrimental effect, because right now it seems the league is pining for security, which the new BAFA board is looking to set the conditions for. How will an extra play-off place in both the North and South sit? Well it’s more games for the best teams, so at least it will test their robustness.

 

There it is, a brief analysis of the changes. Had this have gone through, there would’ve most likely been carnage from the Wolves, the Knights maybe less so. Both are good teams, but Farnham could benefit from a rebuild. The Wolves by contrast will argue their fall from grace has been engineered from afar. Given the only big claim they had this year was ruling Scotland, it’s not overly unfair to say that some reflection was needed. Social media will probably be awash with how the team feels. The other teams will need to think about their logistical needs should this change be actions for 2020. How hard will it be for the Merseyside Nighthawks to get film on the Bristol Aztecs? How different does your game plan become when you take into account the 4-hour trip, the differing nutrition, the different warm up time. One model I like comes from the Phoenix and Falcons who had Saturday games this year. This gives significant recovery time for players, and is something to consider given the amateur nature of BAFA. But give us your thoughts!

The full BAFA announcement can be found here.

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2 Comments

  1. Aengus O'Sullivan on 19th October 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Love me a Saturday game, having that day recovery before going into manual labour is preferable.

  2. Pete Horgan on 19th October 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Seb,

    Not sure where you are getting coach prices from, but £525 for a 450 mile round trip is WAY out! Merseyside to Edinburgh would cost us circa £1150.

    In support of your article though, the cost would be relatively net neutral anyway – an away trip to one of the team’s in the south would be as far as Edinburgh anyway, so no real increase in cost there.

    Great article nevertheless.

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