Żejtun Corinthians, Tarxien Rainbows and Lija Athletic’s pleas for top-flight survival unlikely to be endorsed
The Malta FA Executive Committee met on Tuesday to discuss possible scenarios on the composition of the National competitions for season 2021-22 following its decision to end the current season prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, the Malta FA EXCO ruled that the 2020-21 season would be ended prematurely following the government’s decision of not lifting the current restrictions on organised sport.
The authorities’ decision put the MFA EXCO in a very difficult situation as with the Legal Notice that banned all organised sport still in place, clubs were unable to return to training with a view of resuming the remaining matches of the Premier League at the start of May.
Thus, the local governing body of football had no option but to call off the season and took its decisions on the conclusion of competition, according to the Force Majeure regulations that were implemented last August.
With the Premier League having fulfilled the condition of having 75 per cent of its fixtures played, the title, European places and relegation were assigned according to the final standings.
Leaders Ħamrun Spartans were declared as champions while Hibernians, Gżira United and Birkirkara will compete in the newly formed Europa Conference League.
On the other hand, Żejtun Corinthians, Tarxien Rainbows and Senglea Athletic will be relegated along with Senglea Athletic.
The Challenge League, on the other hand, failed to meet the 75 per cent threshold of fixtures completed and was abandoned with the league title, promotions and relegations not assigned, with the exception of Qormi FC who had already been mathematically condemned to National Amateur League football.
These decisions have left the Premier League facing the prospect of having 12 teams next season while the Challenge will be formed by no less than 22 teams.
The Malta FA said in a statement, that during Tuesday’s meeting the Executive Committee ensured that it respected its own regulations when deciding the possible scenarios for its competitions for the upcoming season.
“The Executive Committee has followed up on the outcomes that ensued from the premature termination of the National League and other domestic competitions organised by the Malta FA on the basis of Force Majeure decided during its previous meeting on the 9th April 2021,” the MFA said in a statement.
“The Executive Committee reaffirmed its strong resolve to ensure utmost respect of the Association’s rules. All the relevant regulations were analysed in depth in the light of the verdicts emanating from the application of the relevant rules.
“A proposal by the Competitions Department in relation to the format of the 2021/22 season was presented with the aim of returning to the regular composition of the National League in the coming season/s with a view of eventually having it defined and approved by the Council and subsequently the General Meeting.
“Another meeting of the Executive Committee is scheduled for the 29th of April.”
During Tuesday’s meeting the MFA EXCO discussed a number of proposals made by three Premier League clubs over their permanence in the top-flight.
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 2021-22 top-flight campaign should be composed by 14 teams.
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.”
On their part Lija Athletic issued their arguments on whey they 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.”
Although the Malta FA statement failed to comment on whether this arguments were accepted or not, however, the indications look that these are unlikely to be endorsed.
In fact, it is understood that the MFA Exco is pushing to have the Premier League with 12 teams next season with the Challenge League formed by 11 teams, divided into two sections and 19 teams competing in the National Amateur League.
Żejtun Corinthians said on their social media that it looks like the MFA Exco had not accepted their argument and their team looked set to be condemned to relegation but vowed to keep fighting.
“Dear fans, we would like to inform you that the Executive Committee of the MFA decided that our team will be relegated from the Premier League,” the club said in a statement.
“However, the final decision will be taken by the MFA Council and we promise you that we will keep fighting till the end.”