Change the Manning Cup format

by

November 09, 2015
Gladstone Taylor/Photographer Jamaica College's Tyreek Magee celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Wolmer's Boys', during the ISSA/FLOW Super Cup semi-final at Sabina Park on Saturday evening. Jamaica College won 2-0.

The Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association schoolboy football season is in high gear. Every year there are questions about the toll these competitions have on young players' lives. One fan wrote our sports department to suggest ways in which the competitions may be adjusted. This is the first of three parts.

As a sports fan I want to start a discussion about high school football in general and propose a new format for the Manning Cup competition. This stems from the obvious lack of quality of play along with the playing surfaces on which the children compete. We have to admit that it has become frustrating to watch Manning Cup games these days, and I think the standard looks even worse on the TV screen.

By any measure we must make an effort to do improve the standard of the game.

Let's start by acknowledging that the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) is not in any way responsible for the development of football in Jamaica as that really resides with the Jamaica Football Federation. The truth is however, that the high school competitions have been and are likely to continue to be the best that age group football can offer in Jamaica for the foreseeable future, so good sense needs to prevail.

These governing bodies must find a way to improve the standard of play.

quality competition

My friends who all claim to be sporting experts, along with many coaches tell me that quality competition is one of the most crucial elements to improvement. One must consistently play against others of similar or higher quality or gains made will be quickly lost.

Several teams dropped out of the 2015 Manning Cup season, but eventually there were 37 teams placed in seven zones with as few as four, and as many as six, in each zone in the first round.

Matches are played on a home and away basis which results in each school playing about 8 or 10 games. Each zone is seeded and has at least one better than average team, so these teams play at most two decent games in the first round.

Then the top two in the group move to the second round where they play three fair quality games (albeit at Constant Spring Playing field) and the top four from this round will play one more in the semi-finals and the top two yet another in the finals.

The best of the best therefore will play at most seven of the decent quality games while the majority will play at most five games and this is clearly not enough to help improve the standard of football in any way.

One may argue that the Walker Cup and Flow Super Cup games should also be added into the equation but lo and behold, these are knockout competitions and we therefore lose half of the teams in the first round after only one game.

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