Changing the Manning Cup format
The Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) 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 second of three parts.
Yesterday I discussed the number and quality of games each team has to play per group. Where am I going with this?
Rather than waste five weeks playing home-and-away fixtures in the first round, let's change the zoning to just four zones of nine and play one-off games in the first round over a four-week period.
Then we take the top three from each of the four first-round zones directly into a semi-final round and create two groups of six teams and play this round on the home-and-away basis, with the group winners going to the finals.
Due to time and scheduling, we would now return the Walker Cup to the previous format of top four teams only - the top two from each semi-final group.
Each team will continue to have their standard eight games of the first round, but this time, there will be at least three quality teams in each zone, so these quality teams will get two fair quality matches and the minnows still get to participate.
In the semi-final round, each team would now get 10 games and the finalists get one more.
Each quality team would now have guaranteed minimum games and not five under the current scheme. With the Walker Cup games, you get another one or two for the top teams.
The later rounds are where ISSA gets to collect from the gates. Can they afford to give that up? They do not have to, as, with a slight modification to our proposal, we can offset much of that. In the current system, ISSA hosts 12 double-headers in the second round.
Under this new proposal, each team will give up two home games (total of 24) to ISSA with the selection of these games the sole right of ISSA. That is, ISSA can choose the matchups that they feel will generate the most interest.
This may also be where the Jamaica Football Federation needs to get involved if the reason for ISSA using Constant Spring as the field of choice is purely about the rental cost.
We see school teams using fields like the Stadium East for their home games, which, though not idea, is a much better surface and has better parking and seating.
If the rental is prohibitive, let's demand that the JFF pay the difference in cost as part of their contribution to the development of the sport.
After all, we are almost sure the JFF receives grants to be used towards the development of the game.