Cayman Islands Premier League gears up for new season

Alfredo Whittaker

The Cayman Islands Premier League will be back next month with a brand-new format.

Alfredo Whittaker, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, said Wednesday that the league will institute promotion and relegation and will split the 14-team league into two divisions.

The teams will play one round, said Whittaker, and then move into two new groupings.

Eight of the teams will stay in Division A, while six teams will move into Division B. There will be an opportunity for promotion and relegation at the close of the season. And next year, the top eight teams will be in the Premier League, while the other grouping of six will be called the First Division.

“We explained the new format and explained what we wanted to achieve by playing this new format,” said Whittaker on Wednesday afternoon. “The clubs were very supportive and approved it.”

Whittaker said the first game of the season – the CIFA Charity Shield – will be contested between Elite Soccer Club and Scholars International Soccer Club on 22 Sept. Scholars International has won the Cayman Islands Premier League title in four of the last five seasons and 12 times overall.

The 2019/20 league schedule will start on 28 and 29 Sept.

Whittaker said the teams will play a maximum of 27 league games, and with the FA Cup and President’s Cup included, their playing schedule will increase to about 35 total games.

At the end of the Division A season, the top four will advance to a playoff to determine the league’s champion and the bottom two will play to determine who can stay in Division A next season. In Division B, meanwhile, the top two teams will play each other at year’s end. The winner will be promoted.

With the new format, CIFA hopes there will be an added significance to every game on the schedule. In past seasons, said Whittaker, all the drama would be drained from the league early in the calendar.

“The league was pretty much dead,” he said. “We knew who would be competing for first place. By not having a relegation or promotion, some games would be forfeited or simply abandoned.

“Now in the new format, we’ll have a playoff for promotion and a playoff for relegation. The [interest in] the league will be alive from the first day to the last day.”

CIFA is also exploring the best way to yield increased visibility for women’s football. As of now, said Whittaker, there are only four or five women’s teams, but he hopes that increases in the future.

The Cayman Islands Premier League is discussing the possibility of amending the schedule to make sure that the women’s teams will get more attention on weekends where the men’s teams do not play.