Tie-breaks v Play-offs and Promotion/Relegation Issues

In 2016 a problem arose in that a tie-break involving promotion was not played soon after the end of the Winter season, for various possible reasons: regular players had gone on holiday; venue and date availability, etc
Additionally changing club memberships and other factors led to more teams not wanting earned promotion, or to apply for casual vacancies, so that at the AGM it was found difficult to populate the divisions.
If the number of promotions/relegations is reduced to one each way (see other discussion page) the importance and fairness of the way that the merits of teams with equal league points are tested may become more crucial.

Thus the way we structure the league into divisions has become linked to questions about the tie-break system.
Here is a selection of remarks on these issues:

On Organising Teams into Divisions: After my tribulations last year with populating the divisions, I was giving consideration as to how to be more prepared. To this end I was going to wait until February to see how the divisions were working out, and with the divisional secretaries investigate likely intentions for 2017/2018. Neither scientific nor binding, it may give us an idea. I certainly do not want to be at the AGM with no idea what the clubs have in mind for the new season. Some clubs have their individual AGMs the day or week before ours and I do feel that as a courtesy to others this should be done slightly earlier......and decisions notified promptly.
Geoff Frost

Personally, I see nothing wrong with retaining optional promotion for two teams rather than just one.  Promotion is to enable teams which are outgrowing their divisions, as regards relative playing strength, to progress to a higher level.  It also serves to allow teams to meet new opponents rather than playing the same old faces year after year.  Thus what Mike sees as “stability” (one up, one down) could be seen by others as stagnation, inertia and unresponsiveness.
More worrying to me is the fact that the Rules regarding promotion and relegation are inherently illogical and inconsistent.  It’s totally illogical to have mandatory relegation of a specified number of teams give that promotion is optional and the number of teams in a division is fixed.  The results don't necessarily "add up".
Given that promotion is optional, relegation in turn should be on the basis of being applied only as necessary to maintain the number of teams at the prescribed level after promotions have been applied.  As things stand, if teams decline promotion then the mandatory relegations needlessly create vacancies.  We’ve got away with this in the past, until recently, as there used always to be teams eager to fill vacancies so created.
The Yorkshire league relegates only that number of teams as is necessary to bring the number down to that prescribed for the division.  (This is similar to Geoff’s “2-up-2-down, 1-up-1-down, 0-up-0-down” idea, but importantly allows flexibility for other variables, like withdrawals, thus, for instance, providing for 2-up-1-down after a mid-order team’s withdrawal.)  I did propose a change a couple of years ago, but was asked to withdraw some of my efforts to swill away these illogicalities.  (There are many more.)
Promotion is a reward, but relegation is not intended a punishment; relegation is merely a possible necessity occasioned by optional promotion.
Interestingly, although promotion is specified as optional, and relegation is compulsory, no team has any right, explicitly stated in the Rules, to remain in the division it was in during the previous season.

Steve Mann

To save everyone looking it up, here is the YCA rule, according to web-site: A10 Promotion and Relegation
At the conclusion of each season the top two teams in any division shall be eligible for promotion to the next higher division if they so wish. If both teams exercise this right then the bottom two teams from the higher division shall be relegated to replace them in that division. If promotion is declined by either team then the next lower placed team shall be offered promotion. If only one team accepts promotion then only one team shall be relegated. Any team which wins the same division two seasons in succession may not decline promotion for the start of the season following. Further transferal of teams between divisions may be approved by the AGM to adjust sizes of divisions, provided it does not deny promotion to an eligible team.
  We have play-off matches as decreed by the rules, and often they prove to have been irrelevant/unnecessary as the relegation is not needed and/or additional teams are promoted.  If we are to make changes, it would make sense to address this, if possible, and avoid unnecessary play-off matches.
  YCA does not have play-off matches but instead has a tie break rule.  Personally I have never been happy with its tie break rule, and presumably nor have others as it keeps being changed.  We saw a problem this year with the current rule which many believe saw Sheffield B robbed of the I M Brown championship.
  Issues to address/Downsides I can see of the YCA rule:
1. a team that has earned relegation may be denied it.  Teams do not always want to hang around for another season of heavy defeats.  That would have applied to Aughton at the last AGM.
2. we have always allowed a team to request voluntary relegation and I would like clarification on how that would work.  It applied to both Darnall and Clay Cross at the last AGM.
3. I imagine we would not propose as part of this proposal the mandatory promotion if a team wins the division in consecutive seasons.  I know some feel strongly about this, but I think it would be best for that to be put as a separate proposal, I risk being proved wrong but I suggest that to combine them would surely mean the overall proposal would fail.

Mike Smith

In the YCA fixtures are drawn up after the AGM by the Competitions Controller over a longish period which allows for consultation. Late withdrawals are managed during this period. The system works well, and without strife, due to the protracted period over which the fixtures are finalised.

Resolution of Tie Breaks
No system of resolving ties, even a play-off, is without problems as to “fairness”.  This is in part illustrated by the experiences of the YCAs.
Experience of Tie-Breaks in the YCA
Years back, the YCA used the match between two tying teams as first tie-break, resorting to overall game points only if that match was drawn.  Then it was changed to game points as the first tie-break.  Then, immediately after this change, Rotherham and Leeds University tied for first place on match points in the Woodhouse, Rotherham having beaten Leeds University in the match between the two.  Leeds University had more game points due to 10-0 win by default over Sheffield University who, though losing to Rotherham, nevertheless took game points off them.  Under the old rule Rotherham would have won, but Leeds University won under the new rule, due to the defaulted match.  The YCA immediately reverted to the old rule for the next season.  Years later, after all had been forgotten, the new Competitions Controller set about “improving” the rules (as they all do), and this rule was changed to what it is now, again allowing the unfairness of defaulted match deciding matters.
General Comments
Game-point totals measure performance across the whole season, whereas a single play-off match between two tying teams can hinge on transient peculiarities like who happens to be on holiday, who happens to be ill, which team was at home, and so on.
Results of matches between the tying teams have the drawback that the teams at the time didn’t realise those matches would be treated as a play-offs.  (You need to be clear on whether you use match points or game points, perhaps using the former as first criterion and the second as second criterion.)
Play-offs as stated above, they can hinge on one-off happenstance like who happens to be on holiday, who happens to be ill, which team was at home, and so on.  Play-offs are an administrative pain, and sometimes unnecessary as things turn out.
Assessment Criteria
Some would argue overall performance throughout the season (e.g. game-point total) was a criterion preferable to the single match or pair of matches (e.g. mid-season results between tying teams, or play-off matches).
Some would argue that a play-off match compares the teams when they are knowingly needing to turn on all their resources.  Thus a team with a number of strong players who all played relatively infrequently could apply the pressure and turn out all its strong players at the same time to win the play-off match.  Some might prefer this one-off test to a measure of overall performance throughout the season.
Some would argue that play-offs created unnecessary, stressful processes which can easily lead to ill-feeling and distress all round.
My Preference
I’d personally go for “overall performance throughout the season” as the primary consideration rather than the odd match, along with avoidance of “unnecessary, stressful processes”.
That means I prefer game-point totals throughout the season as the preferable first tie-break method (for teams tying on match points), whilst seeing a need to remedy the draw-back of the effect of defaulted matches.  As second tie-break method, if needed, I prefer game points in matches between the tying teams
If we assume final team places are determined initially by match points, then my preferred criteria for resolving ties on match points would be as follows:
(a) total of game points scored by the tying teams against those other teams which did not default a match against any of the tying teams;
and, if necessary to differentiate between teams in a secondary tie under (a), (b) total of game points scored against other teams involved in this secondary tie.

This allows for “unfair” game points received by defaulted matches.  The second part equates to the “individual match” if only two teams are involved.  There needs also to be “c” to cope with rare cases where the still remains a tie after application of both (a) and (b) – probably play-offs were parties don’t agree otherwise, or toss of a coin, or share tenure of a title if not a relegation tie.

Promotion-related Problems
Problems with promotion and relegation which seem to have arisen only in recent years, to which the Rules (and people) are not fully and appropriately adjusted, are:
1)  A significant gap in strength between divisions, causing teams to decline promotion.
2)  A lack of preparedness of a weakened team to play in its current division for a further season and get relegated, asking instead for immediate artificial relegation.
3)  A failure to grasp that promotion, relegation and the number of teams in a division cannot be treated as mathematically independent.
4)  A belief that the convenience of an individual club or team necessarily outweighs considerations of the league as a whole.
5)  A failure to appreciate that the number of players a club has limits the number of teams it can field, and even limit whether the club itself is viable as a competing club.

To these may be added (the folly of?) allowing 4-player teams in a six-player division.
If you try to knit together, with existing S&DCA or YCA Rules, various inconsistent ideas not contained therein such as “earned relegation”, "unearned" relegation requests, “anybody can have what they want” irrspective of its impact on others (e.g. less matches) and so on, then it can’t work.  Nothing is optimum for everyone.  To incorporate all provisions Mike seeks would require radical changes in approach, with any notion of fixed numbers of teams in any division being the first thing out of the window, which would potentially lengthen further the AGM.  To keep fixed division sizes would necessitate greater conditionality (if there is such a word) of things like requested relegation, for instance allowing such relegation only if another team from below is willing to replace them, rather than just hope a replacement appears.

Steve Mann

As the last AGM was my first in the chair, I was disappointed that clubs did not give any prior notification as to their intentions. When there were the voluntary relegations, Dave Latham & I just looked on in disbelief. Apart from anything else there is a duty to the rest of the association. Far too much time was spent cajoling clubs to fill league spots.
May I suggest that Andrew & Dave contact the promoted/relegated clubs at an early stage to at least have an idea. Obviously this will be non binding. Steve has produced interesting stats about promotion/relegation between Div 1 & 2.
Even at this early stage of the season I would be surprised if Chesterfield B & Nomads B did not finish first & second unless they decide to slow down. Lets hope that one of the bottom teams in the Davy does not want to go down!!

Geoff Frost

I understood that the play off in the Sheffield league was seen as a good option so the teams could sort it out for themselves and get a 'fairer' result. The YCA play off option was not sensible owing to the distances involved and the difficulties of getting a play-off sorted.
Having said all that I dislike having to organise play-offs because
1. often they are irrelevant!
2. they do not always represent the teams that have played during the year. A few years ago we made sure all our best players had played the requiste number of games and our ringers had as well!
3. One team wants to go down and defaults the play off

I would favour some system where the league is all done and dusted by the time the last match is played!
Looking at the options it would be likely that one team would feel disadvantaged or simply cheated by the system.
In terms of the meetings it does seem silly that we are not aware even provisionally of the structure of the leagues.
We should set a date eg 1/9 by which any team that has the possibility of promotion has to say if they will take it and this position should be offered to the next to last team etc.
I understand some teams asking for relegation when it would result in 2 teams in a division but otherwise.....
Phill Beckett

(This is not an easy problem to resolve
As a member of a team that has declined promotion, basically we wanted to remain a club and made a decision not to get players in who did not come along to club nights. With our current playing strength and little chance of players moving into Worksop we wanted to provide all our players with reasonable games and the effect of being hammered every week in Div 1 was not enticing.
As regards teams requesting relegation the current case of University requesting to go down to Div 3 is a real injustice to a team who can call on 4/5 players with grades of 160+. They would have done fine in Div 2!
I think we need to decide what the divisions are for viz: are they a vehicle to get the best teams into the top division or a means to play reasonably well matched games?
I must say my personal opinion is that promotion should be compulsory, but this is not the view of my club and mostly I would have to vote as my club directs (unless someone else bothers to go to meetings).)

Phill Beckett

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