While brainstorming for some article ideas for my clubs match programme I began looking for something about football in general. We've had a lot of debate about the makeup of the League of Ireland in recent years... number of teams, matches, promotion/relegation spots and playoffs, all that.
Some pin a portion of the league's problems on the format, as it may well cause over-familiarity among fans, seeing the same opposition too often. It's a straightforward 10 team league with 4 rounds, home and away twice. Although unlikely, it is possible for two teams to meet as many as 8 times over the course of a season. Teams have been known to play each other 6 (and possibly 7) times in a season.
I've started to look at what is done in other leagues, to see how they are organised and how it seems to affect them.
What I myself would call the most "standard" system is that of the Premier League. 20 teams, home and away, 3 go down and no play-offs at either end of the table (in that division).
I've been looking around at a few other leagues to see what kind of interesting variations there are. A lot of people may be familiar with the Scottish Premier League system and their "split
The Belgian Pro League has a rather more complicated variation
of that which can end up with some interesting twists as a result. Probably the strangest part of it is the bottom two playing each other in a baseball style 5 game series with the higher placed teams having a 3 point headstart, with the loser being dropped into the lower division "promotion playoffs" semi-finals with the top three runners up from there.
A team could also theoretically avoid the relegation playoff series on goal-difference and finish the season gaining a Europa League spot from league placing. Not very likely, but in no way beyond the bounds of possibility either.
The top ranking leagues in Europe (Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1, Primeira Liga, Russian Premier League, Ukranian Premier League) all employ the simple round-robin format with no variation, save for the Bundesliga which only has one very minor difference (2 automatic relegation spots and one playoff spot).
A very interesting format
I only recently discovered is the Brazilian structure with regional state and national leagues running independently of each other. A Brazilian footballer with broken English did his best to explain how it works but I ended up playing a season of it in Football Manager to get a proper understanding of it.
The Argentinian league crowns two league champions each year, who are on equal footing. An Apertura (Opening) and Clausura (Closing) champion, which are basically the first and second legs of a regular round-robin structure.
Relegation from the Argentine Premier is where it gets interesting. An average is used to choose relegated teams, taking into the account results of the previous two seasons. Many would argue the system was introduced to protect the established "big clubs" from suffering relegation if they have a bad year, as the way in which the average is calculated disadvantages the promoted teams (Don't know the exact workings of it myself). The first year it was introduced in 1983, it saved one of the most successful clubs in the country from relegation, River Plate, as they would have finished in second last and relegated, a point below Racing Club who should have been safe but ended up being relegated due to having the worst average. The average also saved the bottom placed team on points, Atlético Racing, bumping them up eight places to mid-table, some (me for one) would say unfairly.
The Australian A League seems to be a closed shop with no promotion/relegation to/from it. This is getting a bit long so I'll leave to people with knowledge of their national leagues or those that they support to explain the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of their favourite leagues. If you think it's a bit of a departure from the norm, or even if it's just interesting in some way let us know why.
Have been a lurker 99.9% on /soccer
so I thought it was time I contributed something. EDIT: Interesting leagues so far
Brazil - Entirely separate national and state championships.
Argentina - The nonsensical relegation criteria and the "split" championship.
Belgium - Playoff lottery and relegation match series.
Australia - Closed shop.
USA - Closed shop and the frankly alien (to the rest of the world) MLS SuperDraft.