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Żejtun, Tarxien, Lija lament MFA Exco decision over Premier League relegation

Żejtun Corinthians, Tarxien Rainbows and Lija Athletic are urging the Malta Football Association Executive Committee (MFA Exco) to reconsider their Premier League decisions which would see them relegated to the Challenge League.

The MFA Exco decided to bring to an end to the 2020-2021 Premier League season due to the current COVID-19 restrictions.

With the MFA having introduced new regulations in its statute over competitions being halted due to Force Majeure, the Exco members had the aid of these rules to take its decision on the fate of this year’s Premier League title.

In fact, since more than 75 per cent of the fixtures in the Premier League was played, the MFA could award the title, European places and relegation according to the latest league standings.

This means that Senglea Athletic, Tarxien, Lija Athletic and Żejtun were relegated. A decision that leaves the Premier League with 12 teams.

Prior to the premature ending of the season, Żejtun were 13th with 24 points followed by Tarxien on 21 and Lija with 20 with seven games left.

Żejtun and Tarxien joined forces in a statement letter – signed by both clubs’ presidents, Joseph Gauci and Anthony Cassar respectively – in which they are pointing out to the fact that according to an MFA rule, the 2021/2022 top-flight campaign should be composed by 14 teams.

“According to a particular rule, the Premier League should be made up of 14 teams in the 2021-22 season, therefore our teams should not be relegated,” the statement said.

Both teams also alluded to the 2008-09 scenario when Msida St Joseph and Ħamrun Spartans finished in the relegation places. However, both clubs retained their top-flight status after Marsaxlokk, who finished fourth in the Premier League that season, and Vittoriosa Stars, who should have been promoted as runners-up of the then First Division, were accused of corruption and did not participate in the top-flight the following campaign.

“In this case, the Premier League teams were favoured according to a rule that states that top-flight clubs should be given precedence over second-tier teams,” the statement continued.

“We demand that our teams should not be relegated and that the MFA should abide by the rules accordingly.”

Lija disapprove Premier League outcome

Lija president Dr Peter Fenech issued a statement on the club’s official Facebook page indicating three major points why his club should not be condemned to the Challenge League.

“The amendment introduced in competition rules back on the 12th August 2020, notably Section VII, Article 8, provides for a determinate situation whereby all competitions have played more than 75% of their games.

“Whilst the provision is intended to refer to each competition individually, the structure of the Premier Division competition for 2020/21 is dependent not only on the Premier Division clubs satisfying the 75% games played rule but it is also dependent on the Challenge League satisfying the 75% games played rule as well.

“On its own, if solely the Premier League satisfies this rule, the same rule is not enforceable and this because, if we are to apply the rule we have to apply it comprehensively and not in part (in toto)..,” Dr Fenech opened the statement.

“The structure of the Premier League for season 2020/21 does not only have the condition of the League champion and the last four teams to be relegated to the Challenge League but it also requires a playoff between the team placed fifth from the bottom with the team placed third from the top of the Challenge League.

“In view of the fact that the Challenge League has not satisfied the 75% rule and the third-placed cannot be determined, the play-off rule cannot be satisfied and therefore the whole amendment is not enforceable. It is not acceptable from an equitable perspective and even less so from a legal perspective that part of this amendment be implemented and part not implemented.”

In the light of these three points, Lija president said that there is no other alternative but to declare that at this stage the amendment introduced in August 2020 is not enforceable, and the leagues either be continued at a later date or declared abandoned with no consequences which are unequal and/or unfair.

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