It is true the brunt of the COVID 19 pandemic effects have passed but over a year after the virus ravaged everything in its path worldwide, the aftershocks are still being felt. The sports industry has been hard hit by the pandemic and is still feeling the effects of COVID. Fortunately, vaccines and improvement in testing for the virus has helped reduce the rate of infection and death. The Accra Basketball League (ABL) did great rolling out a vaccination program for all personnel connected to the league to protect them when the league rolls out.
While the start date is yet to be announced, the upcoming season is sure to be different considering a chunk of the season has been wiped out by COVID 19 related restrictions on participation in contact sports and limitations on public gatherings. There is pressure to see out a league season given the past year had no league games play out; to sustain interest in the league, there is also the need to get the ABL back to the high level it closed out prior to the COVID hit season.
In Braves of Customs exciting Finals series win over Adenta Leopards, the end of the 2019 run promised bigger things for the league but that came to no avail. Despite the tremendous challenges at hand, adopting a new format other than an all play out format to honour league games is the best solution. Before suggesting the format, a few factors have been taken into consideration based on where the league finds itself.
For starters, the Basketball Africa League (BAL) qualification games are due to commence in October; Braves represented Ghana in the 2019 qualifiers but missed out on progressing further in the qualification phase. The league needs to have a winner by October to serve this purpose.
Another reason for a novice format compared to previous years is the challenge the rainy season Ghana is experiencing presents to getting games honoured. It is quite common around this time of the year to have ABL games postponed because of rainfall but in previous years, this situation was manageable as a heavy list of league games were honoured prior to the lean years the rainy season brought on the league. With the league schedule already behind, finding a way around this situation is imperative hence the adaptation of a new format.
How the new format works
10 teams are to compete in the ABL Men’s Division I and Women’s Division II respectively and the respective teams are to be divvied up into two groups with five teams in each group. The makeup of each group is to be determined through a special draw with Braves and Adenta Leopards as the seeded teams in the Men’s Division. Ghana Police Service (Champions in the Women’s Division) and rival Braves of Customs should be the seeded teams in the female division with the remaining teams grouped via the draw.
Publishing the necessary materials and broadcasting the draw live across internet platforms could serve as an avenue to draw more people to the League’s social media pages and generate interest before the league tips off.A simple drawing of lots for the remaining teams labeled “A” and “B” determines the various group members with the league winners from the 2019 season occupying the “A” group and finalists occupying the “B” group.
Teams play their contemporaries exclusive to their group twice with the ranking determined by wins first of all and goal difference if need be as a secondary option in group grading. The accumulation of points scored and the number of points conceded will ultimately determine such series outcome. Games ought to be played on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays with a matchup involving teams in the various groups.
As such two games in the Women’s Division and two games in the Men’s Division I are to be played on each match day. The winners of the various groups across both divisions progress to the Finals to play out a best of three game series to determine the various Division winners.
Should the league commence by the close of this month as suggested by ABL Director Alex Kukula in an interview during the vaccination program, the ABL can present a winner to compete in the Basketball Africa League qualifiers and ensure all teams in the league play a healthy number of games with eyes firmly fixed on reverting to the old format in 2022. (Click highlighted text to watch interview)
The 15 team ABL Men’s Division II matchups can then follow once the aforementioned divisional games are cleared. The biggest hurdle, vaccination of league personnel, has been cleared and the dicey matter of league format for the league could be handled via the structure provided above.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter