The Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have confirmed that the national ‘B’ division schools football competition will be revamped next year, with the proposed new tournament format allowing each school to play more matches.
Under the current competition set-up, schools are divided into four groups in each of the four zones (North, South, East and West). The top two teams from each group progress to their respective zonal knockout stages, and teams that reach the zonal semi-finals also qualify for the national championships.
Schools who fail to make it past the initial group stage however, will be eliminated. This means that most of the school teams play only five games a year on average, while the finalists get to play 18 games.
However, TODAY understands that under the proposed new format, teams will be segregated into three divisions after the group stage.
The top two teams in each group will qualify for the School Premier League 1 (SPL 1), while the third and fourth-placed teams will advance to the SPL 2. The remaining teams will be grouped in the School Zonal League (SZL).
The 16 teams in SPL 1 and SPL 2 will then be divided into four groups. They will play home-and-away round-robin matches, with the winner of each group moving onto the semi-finals.
Similarly, in the SZL, likely to be contested by eight schools, the teams will be divided into two groups of four. The top two in each group will advance to the semi-finals.
These changes will see each team playing at least eight games each year. The finalists for the SPL 1 and 2 get to play 16 games in total, while the finalists in the SZL will play 10 games.
The MOE and FAS, who will jointly organise next year’s competition, met with the participating schools last week to brief them about the proposed changes and gather feedback.
“MOE and FAS will be co-organising the ‘B’ Division National School Games (NSG) Football tournament from 2017 to enhance the competition experiences for our students,” an MOE spokesperson told TODAY.
“This collaboration will allow more schools to play more matches as part of the NSG, in support of students’ development.
“MOE is currently working with FAS on the details of the competition, including the changes in the competition format. MOE will brief the participating schools when the details have been finalised.”
An FAS spokesman added: “One of the key objectives of the proposed changes is to give our youth footballers more balanced and competitive matches, which will contribute to their development.
“We are in the final stage of discussions, and an announcement will be made in due course.”
The revamp is part of the FAS’ development plan for youth football, which was conceptualised and unveiled by technical director Michel Sablon earlier this year.
The 68-year-old, widely recognised as the man who transformed Belgium into a footballing powerhouse, had then highlighted the need for school players to have more match experience, which he believes will go a long way to developing them into better footballers in future.
TODAY understands that most schools were pleased with the proposed changes, although there are concerns that the additional matches will lead to a packed schedule, leaving little time for coaches to organise training sessions.
A school teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, praised the new initiatives. “This is a positive move by the MOE and FAS because a lot of our players crave to play more matches,” he said.
“But friendly games are logistically hard to arrange, so once the team is out of the competition, there is nothing to draw the students back to committing their time to training.
“A longer season will also mean more game time for the team, which is important for the students if they are to develop into better players.”
A school football coach, who also did not want to be named, added: “I’m glad this is being put in place. The only way for players to improve is to have more match experience.
“It is especially crucial during their developmental years. This is when they start to progress from learning the basics of football to understanding things like tactics, positioning and awareness. All these traits are best honed during a match-setting.”
TODAY also understands that the MOE is studying a proposal by the FAS to change the Primary School football competition to 8v8 or 9v9 matches instead of the current 11-aside format, while also ensuring that every team will get to play more matches
Source: TODAY Online