Shillong, Jul 17: The 2019 edition of the Shillong Premier League will begin on 20th August with fellow newcomers Ryntih and Laban set to play the opener.

In an important change, the SPL will follow a pure league format, ie there will be no playoffs or final, rather the team that finishes at the top of the points table at the end of all 42 matches will be crowned champions. The same format is being followed in this season’s ongoing First Division.

This was revealed at a meeting of the Shillong Sports Association and representatives of the seven participating clubs – Langsning, Shillong Lajong, Rangdajied United, Nangkiew Irat, Laban, Nongrim Hills and Ryntih – today.

In the event of a close league, this change will mean that every match is important. Last season after securing a place in the top two, Langsning fielded a second-string side against Shillong Lajong in their final group fixture knowing that they would be in the first playoff. Earlier than that Langsning, who were the eventual champions, also fielded a weak team against bottom side Sawmer. This year there would be no scope for this kind of gamesmanship if, of course, no team runs away with the title from early in the season.

With the SSA Stadium undergoing work on its pitch the venue for at least the beginning of the tournament will be the JN Stadium. The champions will receive Rs 2 lakh, with Rs 1 lakh going to the runners-up. There has been no change in this for the past few years.

The SSA also intends to give out individual prizes at the end of the season for the Best Goalkeeper, Best Defender, Top Scorer, Emerging Player and Best Disciplined Team.

Each of the seven teams can register a maximum of 30 players, four of whom should be U-18. One U-18 player should also be in the playing XI.

Teams can also register three foreigners of which two can be on the field at any time.

(TSR file photo)

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