Automatically promoting mediocrity
The round robin phase of the Varsity Shield has just concluded and sees Wits University top the table, while UKZN-Impi finished in second place. These sides will compete in the Final to see who will be crowned champions.
Now, 2016 is a promotion year in the competition and the rules of the competition states that the team who finishes top of the Shield log gains automatic promotion to the Cup competition – and that is where the problem lies.
Here is the press release sent by Varsity Cup:
"Wits ended on top of the Varsity Shield log, after defeating UWC 60-13 on Monday at Soccer City. Wits earned automatic promotion to the Varsity Cup, scoring the required points to end on a points difference above UKZN.
"Wits was relegated to the Varsity Shield competition in 2014. At the 2016 Varsity Cup launch the announcement was made that one new university will join Varsity Cup, while two new teams will join the Varsity Shield, in 2017.
"This means that Varsity Cup will grow to nine teams, while the Varsity Shield will grow to eight teams," the statement said.
Surely you would want the champions to be promoted and not the side who merely tops the table. By handing promotion to the table toppers, you now open yourself up to the possibility of a situation where the promoted will not care about the Final.
They have been promoted. What more is there for them to play for? A trophy? What significance does the trophy carry now that they have been given the one thing they really wanted? What is stopping them from fielding a second string side to build for the 2017 Varsity Cup competition?
So now we sit with the situation where the Final could be a dour affair, because Wits no longer has anything to play for. After being relegated from the Cup in 2014, they have achieved their goal of being promoted but, in my opinion, they did not earn it.
Yes, they finished top of the log, but they never ran away with it. Wits finished tied on 32 points with UKZN. However, .the latter claimed seven victories from their eight matches, while Wits managed six.
Wits' saving grace was the fact that they picked up bonus points in every match.. Had they not achieved that feat, they would not have topped the table.
But it is what it is and Wits are on top of the standings, edging the Impi by points difference. So I ask once again, is it justified to hand Wits automatic promotion? My answer, NO!
In my opinion, you have to earn the promotion. Finishing on top of the standings does not mean you have earned anything, other than hosting the Final. Winning the Final and raising the trophy above your head earns promotion.
Is that what the competition has come to? Promoting a team who might not win the competition. Surely the reward for winning the competition should be automatic promotion and not the team that tops the league standings before the Final is played.
Impi earned the right to be crowned 2015 Shield champions but now, because they did not score six points more than Wits, will have to play UCT-Ikeys in the promotion/relegation play-off match. And they could possibly do so as the 2016 Shield champions as well, should they win the Final.
In essence, promote the team who earned the right to be crowned champions and not the team who finished on top of the log.
By Tauriq Ebrahim