Shillong, Jul 18: The 2018 edition of the Shillong Premier League (SPL) will begin in the first week of August, the tournament’s organisers said today.

Only seven teams will be taking part this season; the invitation by the Shillong Sports Association (SSA) for direct entry bids was not a success.

The participating clubs are Langsning (defending champions), Rangdajied United (runners-up), Shillong Lajong (third place), Malki (fourth place), Meghalaya Police (fifth place), Nangkiew Irat and Sawmer (both promoted from the First Division).

Officer’s Choice Blue will remain the title sponsors this season. The prize money will also remain the same, with Rs 2 lakh going to the champions. No increase was possible due to a “tight financial situation,”┬áSSA Honorary Secretary Bor Diengdoh said.

Some details about the SPL have yet to be worked out, as was revealed today when the SSA held a meeting with team representatives, sponsors and the press.

For example, the venue is still up in the air, with the SSA trying to work out an agreement with the owners of the JN Stadium to use that ground at least for the start of the tournament as monsoon rains will badly affect the SSA’s First Ground natural turf. If it turns out that the SPL will be held at the JN Stadium then kick-off will be at 4PM, Diengdoh said. If First Ground has to be used then kick-off will be at 5PM or 5:30PM.

Despite being a seven-team tournament, the SSA is also of the opinion that the bottom two clubs should be relegated, though private murmurings from the club representatives suggest that they feel only one team should face the drop.

This detail was to be worked out at a separate meeting between the SSA and the clubs.

Also to be discussed is exactly how many players a club should be allowed to register for the SPL. Currently set at 35, the issue is significant as last year three-time defending champions Lajong had to forfeit their chance to reach the final as they were double-booked, having been scheduled to play a match away at East Bengal in the I-League.

This season’s I-League will begin even earlier than last year, in October, which will be right in the middle of the SPL. Diengdoh said that this issue “will be taken care of”, not just in the interest of Lajong, but also for other clubs who may want to take part in other tournaments.

(TSR photo of SSA members, sponsors, club officials and players)

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