Terry Duffelen
Thu 28 May 2009

Some corner of an English field that is for ever South American

Ever since I was introduced to the idea of the South American football league format of the Apertura and Clausura, I've become increasingly intrigued by the notion.

We've gone into this before on these web pages, albeit briefly. However, for the uninitiated, in a number South American Leagues they have two league competitions in a single season. From August to the end of the year is the Apertura (Opening Championship) and from January to May is the Clausura (Closing Championship). In some countries they have a play off between the Apertura and Clausura winners to determine the overall champions. Both championships are of equal value and I believe that corresponding qualification places for pan continental championships apply to both competitions.

Once I got my head around the idea that I've wondered if it was worth trying in Europe. I guess the only system close to it, that I know of, is the SPL system dubbed by Sp3ktor as the Scottish Clausura but in fact it's not really the same thing.

I happened to be discussing the merits of the system on Monday evening in the pub with Chris and Gary from twofootedtackle after we had the finished recording their podcast. We felt that, while implementing such a structure would be unrealistic in the professional leagues, we did wonder if it would be something the one of the non-leagues could try as a pilot.

Experimenting on non-leagues is a bit dodgy . One doesn't want to denigrate the importance of these leagues by experimenting on them like lab rats because they are not perceived to be important. However, non-leagues do occassionally get used as guinea pigs for suggested rules changes (the Isthmian League once went an ensure season using kick-ins instead of throw-ins back in the 90's) and a spruced up league format may inject some renewed excitement at the lower end of the English semi-professional pyramid.

I had a look down said pyramid to see if I could find a suitable league for this hypothetical situation and arrived at the Kent League which serves the Home Counties and parts of Greater London. This is a league with no relegation and one promotion place to the Isthmian League Division Three. With no relegation issues to resolve, this seem like an ideal league to try out the format. Each club would play each other once in the Apertura and again in the Clausura. The promoted team could be the winner of a play off between both champions. Just think, two title races in one season plus an all or nothing play off at the end of the season. What better way to keep attendances going throughout the season?

As I said, this format would not be popular at the top end of the professional level but it is a system that has proved successful for years in South America and may be just the ticket for non leagues looking to inject extra excitement in what can be a long drawn out season. I know it will never happen, but I definitely think it's worth consideration.

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