National League format approved: How will promotion and relegation work?

The format for the National League from the Premier League to the National Amateur League following last season’s premature termination was one the motions which was approved during the Malta Football Association’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday.

This season, there will be twelve teams in the Premier League, twenty two in the Challenge League and nineteen in the National Amateur League. In 2022/23, the number of teams in the Premier League would get back to fourteen and the number of teams in the Challenge League would go down to eighteen so that in season 2023/24, the proper format with fourteen teams in the Premier League, sixteen in the Challenge League and the remaining teams in the National Amateur League would be obtained.

For this coming season, the Premier League would be played over two phases with the teams being divided into two pools for the final round. Two teams would be relegated. The Challenge League is divided into two groups with the top two from each group winning promotion and the bottom three from each group being relegated. On the other hand, four teams would be promoted from the two groups of the National Amateur League – the winner of each group, the winner of a decider between the two runner-ups and the winner of the play-offs.

The following season, 2022/23, would see the Premier League back to its normal format with fourteen teams playing over two rounds with the bottom two being relegated and the team finishing third from bottom taking part in the Play-Out against the winner of a decider between the two runner-ups of the two groups of the Challenge League. The winners of the two groups of the Challenge League would be promoted while the bottom three teams of each group would be relegated. Four teams would be promoted from the two groups of the National Amateur League – the winner of each group, the winner of a decider between the two runner-ups and the winner of the play-offs.

As from 2023/24, there would be no more changes in the Premier League but the Challenge League would be back to its normal format of sixteen teams playing over two rounds. The top two would be promoted while the team placing third would face the team finishing third from bottom in the Premier League in the Play-Out. Four teams would be relegated to the National Amateur League which would revert to three groups playing over three rounds. The group winners gain promotion while the teams placing second, third and fourth in each group would enter the Promotion Play-Offs.

2021/22

For season 2021/22, there will be:
(i) twelve clubs in the Premier League;
(ii) twenty-two clubs in the Challenge League;
(iii) nineteen clubs in the National Amateur League

The Premier League 2021/22

The League shall be played in two phases, namely a First Phase which will be followed by a Second Phase, as follows:

During the First Phase, the League shall be played by all the twelve clubs on a double round basis.
At the end of the First Phase, the clubs classified between the first and the sixth place during the First Phase shall play against each other on a single round basis known as Top Six – Final Round.
The clubs classified between the 7th and 12th place during the First Phase shall play against each other on a single round basis known as Play-Out – Final Round.

At the end of the Second Phase:
(a) the highest placed club of the Top Six – Final Round shall be declared the Champion of the Premier Division; and
(b) the bottom two clubs of the Play-Out – Final Round shall be relegated to the Challenge League.

The Challenge League 2021/22

The Challenge League will be made up of two groups of eleven teams, each playing a league on a double round-robin basis.

At the end of the league the following shall apply:

(a) the clubs placed first and second in each group, shall be promoted to the Premier League;
(b) the clubs placed first in each group shall play a deciding match and the winner shall be declared the Champion of the Challenge League;
(c) the clubs placed ninth, tenth, and eleventh in each group shall be relegated to the National Amateur League.

The National Amateur League 2021/22

The National Amateur League will be made up of two groups, each playing a league on a double round-robin basis.

At the end of the league the following shall apply:

(a) The clubs placed first in each group shall be promoted to the Challenge League and shall also play a deciding match with the winner being declared the Champion of the National Amateur League.

(b) The clubs placed second in each group shall play a deciding match and the winner shall be promoted to the Challenge League. The loser shall play in the final of the National Amateur League Play-Offs.

(c) The National Amateur League Play-Offs shall be played as follows:
i. The National Amateur League Play-Offs First Round shall be played between the clubs placed fourth and fifth in each Group in a way that the fourth-placed club in Group A plays against the fifth-placed in Group B (Match 1) and the fourth-placed club in Group B plays against the fifth-placed in Group A (Match 2).
ii. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Second Round shall be played between the winners of the First Round and the clubs placed third in each Group. The third-placed club in Group A shall play against the winner of Match 2 while the third-placed club in Group B shall play against the winner of Match 1.
iii. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Third Round shall be played between the winners of the Play-Offs Second Round.
iv. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Final shall be played between the winners of the Play-Offs Third Round and the losing team of the promotion play-off. The winner of the National Amateur League Play-Offs Final shall participate in the following season’s Challenge League.

In short:

PREMIER LEAGUE (12 teams)
First Phase – two rounds
Second Phase: Top Six Final Round – one round
Play-Out Final Round – one round
Relegated (2): Teams placing 5th and 6th in Play-Out Final Round

CHALLENGE LEAGUE (22 teams)
Two groups of 11 teams each playing on two rounds
Championship Decider: 1st in Group A vs 1st in Group B
Promoted (4): 1st and 2nd in Group A; 1st and 2nd in Group B
Relegated (6): 9th, 10th and 11th in Group A; 9th, 10th and 11th in Group B

NATIONAL AMATEUR LEAGUE (19 teams)
Two groups – one of 10 teams and one of 9 teams each playing on two rounds
Championship Decider: 1st in Group A vs 1st in Group B
Promotion (4): 1st in Group A, 1st in Group B, winner of Promotion Decider and winner of Promotion Play-Offs
[Promotion Decider: 2nd in Group A vs 2nd in Group B]
[Promotion Play-Offs:
First Round – Match 1: 4th in Group A vs 5th in Group B and Match 2: 4th in Group B vs 5th in Group A
Second Round – Match 3: 3rd in Group A vs Winner Match 2 Match 4: 3rd in Group B vs Winner Match 1
Third Round – Winner Match 3 vs Winner Match 4
Final – Winner Third Round vs Loser Promotion Decider]

2022/23

For season 2022/23, there will be:
(i) fourteen clubs in the Premier League;
(ii) eighteen clubs in the Challenge League;
(iii) twenty one clubs in the National Amateur League

The Premier League 2022/23

The League shall be played on a double round basis.

At the end of the league:
(a) the club in first place shall be declared the Champion of the Premier Division;
(b) the clubs in 13th and 14th place shall be relegated to the Challenge League;
(c) the 12th placed club shall participate in a Premier League Play-Out with the winner of the deciding match between the second-placed clubs of each group of the Challenge League for a place in the following season’s Premier League.

The Challenge League 2022/23

The Challenge League will be made up of two groups of nine teams, each playing a league on a triple round-robin basis.

At the end of the league,

(a) the clubs placed first in each group shall be promoted to the Premier League and shall play a deciding match and the winner shall be declared the Champion of the Challenge League;
(b) the clubs placed second in each group shall play a deciding match and the winner shall participate in the Premier League Play-Out;
(c) the clubs placed in the seventh, eighth and ninth position of each group shall be relegated to the National Amateur League.

The National Amateur League 2022/23

The National Amateur League will be made up of two groups, each playing a league on a double round-robin basis.

At the end of the league the following shall apply:

(a) The clubs placed first in each group shall be promoted to the Challenge League and shall also play a deciding match with the winner being declared the Champion of the National Amateur League.

(b) The clubs placed second in each group shall play a deciding match and the winner shall be promoted to the Challenge League. The loser shall play in the final of the National Amateur League Play-Offs.

(c) The National Amateur League Play-Offs shall be played as follows:
i. The National Amateur League Play-Offs First Round shall be played between the clubs placed fourth and fifth in each Group in a way that the fourth-placed club in Group A plays against the fifth-placed in Group B (Match 1) and the fourth-placed club in Group B plays against the fifth-placed in Group A (Match 2).
ii. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Second Round shall be played between the winners of the First Round and the clubs placed third in each Group. The third-placed club in Group A shall play against the winner of Match 2 while the third-placed club in Group B shall play against the winner of Match 1.
iii. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Third Round shall be played between the winners of the Play-Offs Second Round.
iv. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Final shall be played between the winners of the Play-Offs Third Round and the losing team of the promotion play-off. The winner of the National Amateur League Play-Offs Final shall participate in the following season’s Challenge League.

In short:

PREMIER LEAGUE (14 teams)
Two rounds
Relegation: Teams placing 13th and 14th
Premier League Play-Out: Team placing 12th vs Winner of Challenge League Decider for Premier League Play-Out (2nd in Group A vs 2nd in Group B)

CHALLENGE LEAGUE (18 teams)
Two groups of 9 teams each playing on three rounds
Championship Decider: 1st in Group A vs 1st in Group B
Promoted (2): 1st in Group A; 1st in Group B
Decider for Premier League Play-Out: 2nd in Group A vs 2nd in Group B
Premier League Play-Out: Winner of Challenge League Decider for Premier League Play-Out (2nd in Group A vs 2nd in Group B) vs 12th in Premier League
Relegated (6): 7th, 8th and 9th in Group A; 7th, 8th and 9th in Group B

NATIONAL AMATEUR LEAGUE (21 teams)
Two groups – one of 11 teams and one of 10 teams each playing on two rounds
Championship Decider: 1st in Group A vs 1st in Group B
Promotion (4): 1st in Group A, 1st in Group B, winner of Promotion Decider and winner of Promotion Play-Offs
[Promotion Decider: 2nd in Group A vs 2nd in Group B]
[Promotion Play-Offs:
First Round – Match 1: 4th in Group A vs 5th in Group B and Match 2: 4th in Group B vs 5th in Group A
Second Round – Match 3: 3rd in Group A vs Winner Match 2 and Match 4: 3rd in Group B vs Winner Match 1
Third Round – Winner Match 3 vs Winner Match 4
Final – Winner Third Round vs Loser Promotion Decider]

2023/24

For season 2022/23, there will be:
(i) fourteen clubs in the Premier League;
(ii) sixteen clubs in the Challenge League;
(iii) twenty three clubs in the National Amateur League

The Premier League 2023/24

The League shall be played on a double round basis.

At the end of the league:
(a) the club in first place shall be declared the Champion of the Premier Division;
(b) the clubs in 13th and 14th place shall be relegated to the Challenge League;
(c) the 12th placed club shall participate in a Premier League Play-Out with the winner of the deciding match between the second-placed clubs of each group of the Challenge League for a place in the following season’s Premier League.

The Challenge League 2023/24

The Challenge League will be played by all the sixteen teams on a double round-robin basis.

At the end of the league,

(a) the club placed first shall be promoted to the Premier League declared the Champion of the Challenge League.
(b) the club placed second shall be promoted to the Premier League;
(c) the club placed third shall play in the Premier League Play-Out;
(c) the clubs placed in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th shall be relegated to the National Amateur League.

The National Amateur League 2023/24

The National Amateur League will be made up of three groups (two groups of 8 clubs and one group of 7), each playing a league on a triple round-robin basis.

At the end of the league the following shall apply:

(a) The clubs placed first in each group shall be promoted to the Challenge League and shall also qualify to the Group
Winners’ round-robin where they play against each other on a single round-robin basis. The winner of the Group
Winners’ round-robin will be declared the Champion of the National Amateur League.
(b) The clubs placed second, third, and fourth place in each group shall participate in the National Amateur League Play Offs.
i. The National Amateur League Play-Offs First Round shall be played between two clubs from amongst the fourth-placed clubs in each group, drawn by lot;
ii. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Second Round shall be played between the winners of the Preliminary Round and the clubs placed in the second, third, and fourth place of each Group. Second-placed clubs would be seeded;
iii. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Semi-Finals shall be played between the winners of the Play-Offs Second Round;
iv. The National Amateur League Play-Offs Final shall be played between the winners of the Play-Offs Semi-Finals. The winner of the National Amateur League Play-Offs shall be promoted to the Challenge League.

In short:

PREMIER LEAGUE (14 teams)
Two rounds
Relegation: Teams placing 13th and 14th
Premier League Play-Out: Team placing 12th vs Winner of Challenge League Decider for Premier League Play-Out (2nd in Group A vs 2nd in Group B)

CHALLENGE LEAGUE (16 teams)
Two rounds
Promoted (2): Teams placing 1st and 2nd
Premier League Play-Out: Team placing 3rd in Challenge League vs 12th in Premier League
Relegated (4): Teams placing 13th, 14th 15th and 16th

NATIONAL AMATEUR LEAGUE (23 teams)
Three groups – two of 8 teams and one of 7 teams each playing on three rounds
Championship Decider: 1st in Group A, 1st in Group B and 1st in Group C
Promotion (4): 1st in Group A, 1st in Group B, 1st in Group C and winner of Promotion Play-Offs
[Promotion Play-Offs:
First Round – Two teams placing 4th drawn by lot
Second Round – Teams placing 2nd and 3rd in Groups A, B and C; winner of 1st round, the remaining team placing 4th
Semi-Finals – Winners of Second Round matches
Final – Winners of Semi-Finals]

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