26 June 2023

A Division results need to be decided on the pitch instead of off of it

A Division league table from Hamro Khelkud
Nepal's top flight football league experienced yet another chaotic finale with accusations of bias, unfairness, tanking and match-fixing all across the league table.

This is par for the course in Nepali football and primarily due to the competition organizers lacking common sense when developing the league format and competition rules. 

Below are just a few givens when it comes to the A Division every time it is played:

  • Due to political mischief many clubs struggle to register foreign players for the start of the season
  • Key players depart in the middle of the season for opportunities abroad
  • Top clubs will use incremental prize money to buy wins and guarantee their places at the top of the table
  • Clubs in and near the relegation zone fix matches to avoid going down

The phrase "the table does not lie" thus does not hold true in Nepal.  Due to some of the above circumstance the final standing is usually not at all indicative of how strong club is but more representative of their political and financial might in getting players registered on time and fixing matches. For this reason a double-round league holds little value in Nepal.

Football officials should instead create a format that allows clubs to fight it out in meaningful end of season matches. Basically playoffs (though there are other little hacks, such as leveling the prize money, than can also help).

After the league stage, take the top 4,6 or 8 teams and let them compete in a single elimination playoff where all teams are incentivized to give it their all. Similarly, take the bottom four teams and have them play a one-off game where the loser gets relegated. With such formats in place, clubs will much less likely fix games or block other teams from registering their players on time (yes! that happens in Nepal) as they will know that eventually the playoff matches will be decisive and engaging in nefarious shenanigans is a waste of their time and money. Let the A Division results be decided on the pitch instead of off of it!