Promotion and relegation between Divisions 1 and 2 isn’t working. There is a gulf in grading that has gotten wider over the past decade: nine of the ten Division 1 teams, at some point this season, had a higher-graded player on board 5 than the eventual Division 2 winners had on board 1. (The team that didn’t, finished four points adrift at the bottom.)
The result is promoted teams having to be persuaded to go up. I’ve heard as many grumbles over the years from teams unwillingly inserted into Division 1 as from teams unwillingly excluded. But if we have a slightly smaller Division 1, like this year’s 10, we end up relegating a Leam Lane Aces or a Jesmond Knights. I am very reluctant to make Jesmond’s first team prove they can win Division 2 with a perfect score. It would be a novelty for a week, then it would be like London Irish in the Championship.
I see the problem as one of supply and demand: when there used to be 30 clubs in the league, it was a privilege to secure one of approximately 12 places in Division 1. Now there are 12 clubs, it isn’t. Clubs who feel strongly that they should be represented in Division 1, already are, with room to spare. And so players who feel strongly that they should be playing in Division 1 are better off speaking to their club’s Division 1 captain than trying to win Division 2. In geek-speak, the algorithm that sorts players into divisions by skill is too efficient, since it operates in real-time within clubs rather than annually at the League Meeting, and a too-efficient sorting algorithm causes stratification.
I see two options:
- Chop Division 1 in two. Have a Premier League and a Division 1 with a strict limit of 6 teams each, playing each other twice. Edinburgh went down this road in the mid-00s when they had the same problem. There would need to be a transitional season where teams know that they’re fighting for a place in the top 6. If we simply took the top 6 teams from the season just finished, Morpeth would kill me.
- Make Division 1 an “Open” division. You don’t have to be promoted to it, you just enter it, but you enter it to win it (or because you like testing yourself against the top players). There is no carrot for finishing third-from-bottom. Conversely there is no stick to force the Division 2 champions to make the step up, so that team would be “pyramid champions” (of the world’s smallest pyramid) and be eligible to defend their title the following season. Optionally, Division 1 could be treated as a separate county from 2 and 3 for eligibility purposes. So if you’re a Keen Konstantinos, you can play for one club in Division 1 and another club across Divisions 2 and 3.
I would prefer option 2 over 1, because option 1 could just give you twice as many games against the same people, but I would prefer option 1 over the status quo.
Does anyone feel strongly that they want to keep the current Division 1 and not do either of those things? (Click here to leave a comment)