By: Amjad Mustafa Amin
KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The new regulations of the Sudanese Football First Division contest is triggering mounting controversy with all concerned clubs categorically rejecting it.
Hitherto, each of the league’s eighteen teams used to play 17 matches, one at home and one away. Then the top teams would be decided by the number of points each team had scored.
But according to the new regulations the teams would be divided into two groups (9 teams in each group). Teams of each group would compete to decide the group winners. The winners of each group (4) would clash the winners of the other group to decide the tournament champions. These 8 teams would make what the regulations call the ‘elite tournament’. Then the remaining teams would compete to stay in the First Division or go down. The teams which cannot make it would be relegated to the second division that would make a new football tournament.
The Sudan Football Association (SFA) argues that the new arrangement would reduce financial cost by cutting the number of matches each team plays, almost halving them.
The clubs consider the new arrangement unilateral. They say the regulations were decided by the SFA Board upon recommendations from the contest’s organizing committee, before consulting the clubs concerned, the Central Training Committee or the country’s football experts. Observers fear the new regulations might put the new tournament, scheduled to kick off in early February, at great risk.
Already all the clubs have warned they would pull out of the tournament if the new regulations would be applied. They argue that the new regulations are in conflict with the SFA basic Statute, recently endorsed by the World football governing body, the FIFA.
“I want to know how the two groups could be decided and I want to know whom I am going to clash with,” said Secretary of the Merrikh Club Tariq al-Mu’tasim in a televised interview on Monday.
“The new regulations are in complete contravention with the SFA basic Statute,” he said.
SFA Chairman Dr. Kamal Shaddad reacted sharply to the clubs’ response, warning them with “severe punishment” if they pull out of the contest.
“The SFA has endorsed the championship regulations and all clubs have been invited to be present when the lots are drawn and any club that refuses to play should bear the responsibility for that and should know that it would be liable for domestic and international punishments,” Shaddad has warned.
Ismail Atalmannan, a former general coach of the National Team of Sudan, said the new regulations were prompted by the changes in the calendar of the Confederation of the African Football (CAF) that obliged the SFA to reduce the time duration of its contests.
“If clubs refuse to play, this is going to complicate things. To avoid this crisis the clubs should speak to the SFA and should keep in mind that this is an exceptional season,” he said.
In the same connection the league clubs have handed a memo to the SFA General Secretary complaining that the new regulations dividing the tournament into two groups would harm their interests.
A sports expert who spoke to Sudanow on condition of anonymity has urged the clubs to give it a try and accept the new regulations for one year after which the experiment could be evaluated.
It is not clear for now whether the clubs would change their mind and accept the new regulations, or the new season would be blown up.
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