Even though Season 5 is about to reach it’s thrilling climax, I thought it would be good to get the creative juices going and solicit suggestions for how to improve the game for next season and beyond.
As a starter, here are my thoughts mainly – please do comment on whatsapp about which ideas you think would and wouldn’t work, as well as chip in with your own.
I’ve been fairly open and exposed a couple of the game’s flaws in an effort to resolve them. I am not wedded to any of these suggestions, if they’re crap they’re crap, I want to get your feedback. All thoughts are welcome!
Dearly Departed, Gone But Not Forgotten, Forever In Our Hearts
I realised that I should address why I am posting this. Will, our esteemed Self-Declared Potentially Lead Debatably Magisterial But Definitely Venerated Commissioner will be taking a well earned break after this season. Having helped to run and improve the game with Yulong for the last three seasons, he is taking a back seat to enjoy the game solely as a manager once again.
Yulong remains our Excellent And World-Leading Commissioner and I’ll be taking on Will’s responsibilities to run the game alongside Yulong (rather than just chipping off and interfering from the sidelines).
Yulong and I had a brief exchange before I posted this – this isn’t me going rogue!
We need to combat the mid-season slump
From around the 6th match through to the last few matches, it can become a bit of a drag. The early season excitement wears off, the end of season race to the finish line is, at this point, a long way in the distance and you have to grind out a teamsheet twice a week.
Yet the game is fundamentally built on football matches. If you remove the football matches…what’s the point? A football game without football matches is ESL logic.
So we need to have just enough matches to keep it exciting, but not too many that it’s a slog. This should be possible, if we have less games in the season then every game is like a cup final so it reduces admin and increases excitement. Yet we don’t want so few that the winner isn’t credible.
I propose we aim for 9 league matches per year (there will also be cup games) and then structure the leagues around this. We might have a game more or less depending on the amount of teams and the final structure of the league, but that’s the number to aim for. By way of comparison, we have 16 league matches played over 18 league rounds this season, plus cup games.
Any changes to game numbers will see abs changed in line. For example, if we have 25% less matches in a season then players will get 33% more abs for each action (I think that maths is correct?).
Ideal league size
I feel that the more teams we have, the better the game is. With more teams you have a more lively chat, you have more squads and thus more players available for transfer, you have more managers looking to do deals. More leagues means more promotion and relegation.
I think a good number to aim for is 30 teams. This would mean 3 leagues of 10 and if everyone plays each other once everyone that’s 9 league games.
But conversely, I also think what makes this game great is that we have a #community. We’re all friends and friends-of-friends, this hasn’t been opened up to the wider world. It’s as much about the #banter as it is the results.
Real life football has #narrative and #drama around it. Sky Sports News creates a soap opera out of the comings and goings of clubs to fill the six days that aren’t matchdays. Our #community has this too.
So, the elephant in the room: Do we open this game up to the wider world?
Or perhaps more accurately:
- Do we agree that 30 teams is a good number to aim for?
- Will having more teams lead to a loss of group cohesion and outweigh the benefits?
Commissioners: 1 league of 10 teams playing one game is 45 games per season to run; 3 leagues would be 135 games. We currently have 2x leagues of 9 home and away, meaning 144 games total. A third commissioner will probably be needed should we increase to 30.
We are often handicapped by changing numbers of teams each season. In previous seasons the game has expanded each season.
This makes planning a promotion and play-off system challenging, as once next year’s league size is known you have to adapt the promotion/play-off/relegation spots we’ve been playing for to fit next season’s different league structure.
To solve this, we need to get to a target number of teams as quickly as possible and then have a waiting list for next season so we stay at that number. We need to be at the point that we’re turning people away and putting them on a waiting list, so if a manager leaves we have a ready replacement.
Player trading (i.e. not the draft, auction, free transfers or youths) where two managers agree a deal between each other is one of the best things about the game. Chancellor Yulong Sunak’s Splash Out To Help Out scheme, where a selling manager receives an extra 20%, was a great success. From my experience, it made a deal easier to reach as the seller was more likely to settle than hold out, which is when a number of deals collapse.
I don’t have the answer, but any other mechanisms and ideas that would help boost the transfer market are much appreciated.
Most transfers happen in the close season. Prize money has just been handed out, players abs and ages have changed and there’s a need and desire to reshape the team for the season ahead.
After that, the deals are scarcer and more opportune. A reason for giving out prize money mid-season (not more prize in total, just giving some of it out earlier) would give a bit of a boost to the transfer market…
The Second Cup
…Finishing one of the cup competitions early would be a good justification for handing out money earlier, as well as add some excitement to the middle of the season. A bit like the League Cup in reality.
Our second cup is currently largely ignored as it happens in the background of the main cup. Giving it its own timeline and final in the middle of the season, a distance from the other cup, will help it.
However, if we have more teams and run the cups separately it will mean more matches/rounds added to the season, not desirable, so we need to find a fair way to reduce the competition quickly.
As an idea; the early season cup would have 8 teams (three rounds) who enter based off of certain criteria from the previous season, similar to Champions League qualification. They could be:
- 2x previous season cup winners
- 3x top three from division one
- 3x top three from division two
The structure is so every team has a good chance of getting into the cup, through both their league and cup performance. If a cup winner also finished in the top 3 then the 4th placed team gets in.
At the point prize money is distributed; the cup participants get money based on their performance and the remaining teams also get a solidarity payment, boosting the transfer market. Again, the total prize money doesn’t increase, just some is awarded earlier.
The main cup would remain a standard knockout FA Cup format but start after the first cup has finished. A League Cup, that’s a bit like the Champions League… should probably be called The League Of Champions?
Free transfers are largely ignored. Not the end of the world as they’re not a focal point of the game, and if they become a big component of the game it will reduce the amount of manager trades taking place.
There is probably room to make free transfers a bigger part of the game though. Increasing the amount of money you get for releasing someone will mean managers will be tempted to release better players, but the cost of buying them has to increase comparatively.
No player has been released for more than £1m. Therefore, I propose reducing the fee for buying someone from £2m to £1m… but then increasing everything x10. Instead of getting £800k you get £8m, but it now costs £10m to buy.
We should see more people use the frees, so bank balances will go fluctuate more frequently and players will move around more frequently, meaning there are more opportunities for player trades. Managers sitting on piles of cash is what kills the market; with balances more often going up and down managers will be more minded to buy/sell more often and will be able to raise funds to complete a sale more easily by releasing squad players.
If this is too effective and stops manager trading then we can reduce it from x10 to x5, but free transfers are being largely ignored now so worth changing.
Auctions, and live auctions, are awesome.
The play-off system
In the current league structure we have a large catchment for the play-offs to ensure that all teams have something to play for towards the end of the season, including those near the bottom of the table. I suggest having a ‘waterfall’ style play-off system (I just made that term up).
If, for example, there are 5 teams in the play-offs consisting of the 7th to 3rd placed teams:
- 7th would play 6th
- The winner of the previous match would play 5th
- The winner of the previous match would play 4th
- The winner of the previous match would play 3rd with the winner promoted
This would mean we keep a big play-off ‘catchment’ so the teams at the bottom are still playing for something at the end of the season. The teams who are within the play off places still want to play for league position to give them a better chance, and the system is fairer as we have less chance of the team who snuck in to the play-offs in 7th fluking a win to go up at the expense of 3rd; if 7th go up they would have earned it.
This could be too harsh on the team in lower place in the playoffs (they have a very low chance of going up, which somewhat reduces the incentive).
There are other options without making the last place play off team win 3 games on the bounce. Currently last place playoff team needs to win two games.
Another option is that teams lower in an oversized play-offs only have to play one game but it’s away from home (as it was before), with home advantage significantly increased.
Ideas from Will’s Big Notes File O’Fun
- A raffle for a decent player, £1m a ticket (idea courtesy of Harper)
- Enforcing a keeper on the bench
- 40% boost for the selling club on transfer deadline day
- Need to find a way for all manager’s to feel they have enough commentary if more teams
- Remove (or strictly limit) academy (leaving top tier for those who haven’t done it)
Please, everyone, share your thoughts!