Changes to the format of the National League – Premier League, First Division, Second Division and Third Division – and the FA Trophy were approved during a meeting of the Council of the Malta Football Association which was held on Thursday. Changes will take place with immediate effect.
According to these changes, as from season 2011/12, the National League will consist of a Premier League with twelve clubs, a First Division with twelve clubs, a Second Division with fourteen clubs and a Third Division with the remaining clubs.
The Premier League will be played with the current format, the only difference being that the Relegation Pool will consist of six teams rather than four.
Therefore the first phase will be played on a two-round league basis between the twelve teams. At the end of the first phase, six teams will be playing in the Championship Pool and another six in the Relegation Pool. The two pools will be played on a two-round league basis. Two teams will be relegated to Division 1.
The First Division League will be played on a two-round league basis between the twelve clubs. Two teams will be promoted to the Premier League and the bottom two will be relegated to Division 2.
The Second Division League will be played on a two-round league basis between the fourteen clubs. The first two will be promoted to Division 1 and the bottom three will be relegated to Division 3.
The Third Division League will be played on a two-round league basis. The top three teams will be promoted to Division 2.
Premier League 12 clubs – 2 phases: First Phase on two rounds and Second Phase (Championship Pool and Relegation Pool) on two rounds. Total number of matches: 192 matches. 32 matches each team.
First Division 12 clubs – two rounds. Total number of matches: 132 matches. 22 matches each team.
Second Division 14 clubs – two rounds. Total number of matches: 182 matches. 26 matches each team.
Third Division 14 clubs – two rounds. Total number of matches: 182 matches. 26 matches each team.
According to this new format, Premier League clubs will be playing 32 matches in all, First Division clubs 22 matches, Second Division clubs 26 and Third Division clubs 26. Under the current system, Premier clubs played 28 or 24 matches, First Division clubs 18 matches, Second Division clubs 22 and Third Division clubs 18 or 20 matches.
In order to have the new format in place as from next season, at the end of this season, promotion and relegation methods will be changed.
Only one club will be relegated from the Premier League to Division 1. Three clubs will be promoted from Division 1 to the Premier League and only one will be relegated to Division 2. Five clubs will be promoted from Division 2 to Division 1 and only one will be relegated to Division 3. The top three teams in each section of the Third Division will be promoted to Division 2 while the fourth team in each section will face each other in a promotion decider. Therefore seven teams in all will be promoted from Division 3.
Promotion and Relegation at the end of this season
Premier League one team relegated
First Division three teams promoted and one team relegated
Second Division five teams promoted and one team relegated
Third Division three teams from each section promoted, a seventh team to be promoted following a decider between the fourth team in each section.
The FA Trophy will be open to all MFA clubs and clubs taking part in the Gozo Football Association competitions. Currently the competition is only open to Premier and First Division clubs and the Gozo FA champion.
Third Division clubs and Gozitan clubs will be taking part in the First Round. Should more than 28 clubs apply to take part, the number of teams will be trimmed to twenty eight through a Preliminary Round.
The fourteen teams who qualify from the first round plus First and Second Division clubs will take part in the Second Round of the competition.
The twenty teams who qualify from the second round will be joined by the Premier League clubs in the third round. The FA Trophy holder and the top six teams in the Premier League the previous season will be seeded.
The sixteen teams who qualify from the third round will be playing in the fourth round.
First Round: Third Division and Gozitan clubs (28 teams)
Second Round: 14 teams from First Round, First and Second Division clubs (40 teams)
Third Round: 20 teams from Second round and Premier Division clubs (32 teams)
Fourth Round (16 teams)
Quarter-Finals (8 teams)
Semi-Finals (4 teams)
A decision on whether the First Division Knock-Out and the Second & Third Division Knock-Out will be played or not will be taken, each year in July, if at least half of the teams eligible apply to take part.
MFA Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Vassallo explained that the association will devise plans on how matches from the various competitions will be scheduled and in which venues.
Complete rounds of matches are planned to be played during a particular weekend, not only in the Premier League and First Division.
It is planned that during a particular week, a complete round of matches from the Second Division will be played on Saturday and a complete round of matches from the Third Division League matches will be played on Sunday. The following week, the Second Division matches will be played on Sunday and Third Division matches will be played on Saturday.
Youth League matches from Sections B, C and D will be played on Mondays while Section A matches will be played on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Meanwhile following the inclusion of Gozitan clubs in the FA Trophy, Gozo FC will probably no longer take part in MFA competitions.