Promotion And Relegation Comes To League1 Ontario
We had an exclusive interview with Dino Rossi to provide a deeper look at the changes, too. Read it here.
League1 Ontario has announced a significant restructuring to its competition model that will see promotion and relegation come to a new three-tier league system two years from now.
Entitled the ‘2024 Plan’, a new footballing pyramid will see the men’s and women’s leagues organized into three distinct tiers: The L10 Premier division, the L10 Championship, and League2.
Beginning in 2024, the champion from both League2 and the Championship will advance one rung up the ladder, whilst the lowest performer from the Premier Division and Championship will regress one rung down. With the addition of promotion and relegation to both the men’s and women’s side of the game, every result on the pitch will carry increased importance.
“It will drive better and more meaningful competition across each tier,” said League1 Ontario Executive Director Dino Rossi, “this is an exciting next step focused on the growth of the game and the depth of talent and potential talent in Ontario.”
The top two flights will feature twelve and ten teams respectively for the men’s side, and ten and eight for the women’s. The bottom rung of the ladder will be split into regional-based competition, which means that there’s no set maximum of clubs right now – though only one winner will earn promotion into the Championship.
Clubs will be assigned to their respective positions in the new football pyramid by taking an aggregate points tally from the next two seasons, with their points earned in 2022 being worth 75% whilst points earned in the 2023 season will be worth 100%. In two season’s time, all of the existing men’s and women’s teams will then be sorted into the top two tiers accordingly, with reserve teams dropping into League2. That’s where future expansion sides will need to start, too.
The League1 Ontario board of directors have put a pause on expansion until the 2024 Plan is enacted, which means that there won’t be any new semi-professional clubs joining until League1 Ontario becomes a three-tier football pyramid with club movement between each division.
The league has grown significantly since it launched with a ten-team men’s division in 2014, with a seven-team women’s division joining the following year. With the 2022 League1 Ontario season hoping to launch in a few month’s time, there are now 22 men’s teams and 17 women’s teams participating.
This significant growth saw League1 Ontario look for a new way to ensure the competition didn’t become oversaturated by the numbers.
“You can really only keep bringing on new teams and parachuting them into the only tier of competition for so long before you really run the risk of dilution of talent,” Rossi told Northern Tribune, “and that the competition may lose a little bit of its meaning. I’m not going to deny that I’m a bit of a football purist in the sense that promotion and relegation is an important part to the spot. I don’t think it’s everything. I don’t think it’s a panacea by any means, but for us at this time it should address a number of things that we want to square away.”
The decision had unanimous backing from its license holders, who agreed to the terms knowing that it mean not all of them would be enjoying the top flight of the semi-professional league structure in two year’s time. While some amateur and youth systems in Canada have employed promotion and relegation, League1 Ontario will become the only system of this stature to make the plunge.
“L1O faces an important moment in its history,” commented Concacaf President Victor Montagliani, “the status quo does not move the sport forward.”
Movement between multiple divisions is something that Canadian Premier League fans hope to see at the domestic professional level one day, though there’ll be a long period of growth before that becomes a possibility.
Given that the CPL owns League1 Ontario, though, they’ll be keeping a close eye on the logistics and sustainability of the initiative.
For now, the first steps into promotion and relegation will be broached by League1 Ontario in the years to come. We spoke with Dino Rossi about the changes, and he had a lot to say. You can read that here.