On March 4th, the CTFA announced that the Taiwan Challenge League, a new division of football, below the Premier League, would be formed.
Although no further details were initially forthcoming, the announcement was cause for celebration for those who were campaigning for an increased level of professionalism of the game in Taiwan.
After the existence of the new league was thrown into jeopardy amid the uncertainty of the covid-19 outbreak, Taiwan Football News now has confirmation that it will go ahead as planned. Initially slated to begin in May of this year, it has been pushed back to July.
Whilst the format of the Challenge League has yet to be finalised, it is expected to consist of a four-team round-robin, though the number of rounds is currently undecided.
Andy Chen Academy (ACA), Inter Taoyuan, PlayOne Taipei and Saturday Football International (SFI) will be the inaugural teams. All four competed in a series of playoffs to qualify for this season’s TFPL, but were unsuccessful after SFI lost 1-0 to Red Lions and ACA lost 4-1 to MCU. The number of participants could further increase before July, although this is thought to be unlikely for practical reasons.
SFI had been particularly strong in their advocacy to have a league created as soon as possible. SFI were formed last year with the express purpose of competing in a competitive Taiwanese football league.
The news has massive consequences for the Premier League as it introduces direct relegation to the second division, replacing previous seasons’ safety net of a relegation playoff for the bottom team. From now, the last team from Premier League will be relegated to 2nd division while the champion of Challenge League will be promoted.
In addition, the Challenge League runner-up will play a home-and-away playoff against the team finishing 7th in the Premier League.
ACA, SFI and Inter Taoyuan agreed on Wednesday to play friendly matches amongst themselves until the official start of the new championship. PlayOne Taipei’s schedule remains to be decided.