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Play-offs format, foreign players quota, and new calendar among proposals for a revamped Malta Premier League

The Malta Premier League (MPL) is considering several proposals as they look to revamp Malta’s top-flight from season 2024-25.

The MPL revealed a number of proposals that are currently being discussed by the 14 top-flight clubs during a consultation meeting with several stakeholders who gave their views on the future plans of the body.

Among the proposals discussed was a change in the Premier League format as well as discussions on a new timeline for the Malta football calendar.

Read also: Joseph Muscat excited by challenge of revamping Premier League.

Joseph Muscat, the Malta Premier League chairman, said that the main idea behind these proposals is to try and turn the top-flight championship into a more competitive and attractive product to try and attract more fans to the stadia.

“Our final goal is to help our teams improve their performances on the international scene,” Dr Muscat said.

“At the moment, there is a clear direction of where we want to go in terms of the number of teams to play in the championship, the league’s calendar and format as well as trying to ensure there is a fine balance between homegrown players and the number of overseas players with each club.

“In my view, the most important thing, however, remains to help the clubs become more financially sustainable.”

The Malta Premier League is planning to take full control of the championship organisation as from season 2024-25 and at present there are two proposals on the number of teams that will compete, one with 14 teams and the other with 12.

There are also discussions on whether it would be better to have a change in the football calendar.

During the meeting, Dr Muscat said that the 14 Premier League clubs unanimously agree that the season will be played between the start of February and November.

The biggest challenge in this scenario, Dr Muscat said, was how we are going to use the various venues to accommodate such a calendar season.

Despite the Premier League clubs’ backing of this proposal, Malta FA president Bjorn Vassallo made it clear that an impact assessment would have to be carried out, not only to see the benefits and disadvantages but also due to the fact that such a calendar would impact all other competitions who would have to start at the same time due to promotions and relegations.

Should the February-November season get the green light, clubs must decide on how they will make the transition to such a schedule.

There are currently two options on the table, one being a four-month competition between Premier League clubs to determine European placings, with no relegation involved. The other is an immediate transition with a four-month competition that will also include Challenge League teams.

One of the major talking points that is likely to bring a lot of controversies is the format of the Premier League.

At present, the Malta Premier League is discussing three options. The first one will see the championship being played over three rounds, the second being a league played in two phases – two rounds in the first phase and a Championship and a Relegation Pool also based on two rounds and the other a league played in two phases – two rounds in the first phase followed by play-offs and play-outs.

Another major issue that has been discussed in the past few years is whether there should be an open market for foreign players and the number of homegrown players there should be on the pitch.

One proposal says that there would be no limit on players coming from the European Union, a maximum of nine non-EU players but at the same time, there would be no limit on the number of non-EU players a club can register.

This proposal also states that there should be a minimum number of minutes to be played by homegrown players per season and a financial reward is put in place for those clubs that exceed the minimum number of minutes played by homegrown players while those which do not will have points deducted.

The other proposal states that there would be no limit on either EU or non-EU nationals but there would be a minimum number of minutes to be played by homegrown players per season.

The Malta Premier League is also looking at the introduction of solidarity mechanisms from the UEFA Solidarity Payments that are set to increase to €1.1 million.

The possible introduction of VAR in Maltese football was also another item for discussion on Thursday and Dr Muscat said that it is not a question of if technology assistance will be introduced but rather when.

“Football without VAR is not professional football,” Dr Muscat said.

“The biggest challenge for us is how are we going to finance the expenditure of introducing VAR in Maltese football as the licensing of the system costs thousands of euros.”

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