Wed, Feb 06, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Soccer team left in limbo after relegation

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Royal Blues Taipei line up ahead of a match in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Royal Blues Taipei

Fresh winds of change and promises of reform are sweeping through the nation’s soccer community with a new regime taking over at governing body the Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) last year, but the result of this season’s Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) relegation battle has left a team in limbo with no league to play in and has also exposed other problems that urgently need fixing in the coming months.

As usual, this season was a two-horse race for the title in the TFPL between Taipei Tatung and Kaohsiung Taipower, the two teams with the strongest corporate backing and financial clout.

The former were crowned champions with 54 points, while the latter were runners-up with 44 points.

Finishing bottom of the table were National Sports Training Center (NSTC), the army-affiliated team composed of young trainees playing in lieu of doing their compulsory military service, and expat side Royal Blues Taipei, headed up by Polish general manager Robert Iwanicki.

Promotion and relegation matches were held in December last year, with the Blues fighting to stay up against Taichung Futuro, Min Chuan University and Esporte Clube Desafio.

While the Blues started well by winning their first playoff match 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Futuro, they faltered in the next match, losing 2-3 to Desafio.

Then in the decisive match the Blues fell to 0-1 defeat to Min Chuan.

Futuro and Min Chuan topped the group with six points from their three matches.

“Taichung Futuro and Min Chuan University have gained promotion. They will play in the TFPL for the 2019 season ... while Royal Blues Taipei have been relegated,” a CTFA news release on Dec. 20 said.

However, that led to a bizarre situation with the Blues having no league in which to play, since the CTFA has no national lower-tier leagues.

“After three years in the Taiwan Premier League, the Blues have been relegated to ... nothing, as there is still no second division in Taiwan,” the club said on its Web site on Jan. 2.

“NSTC have dropped out of the TFPL, due to changes in military conscription, which resulted in a lack of youth players for a full roster and they have no plans to enter a team in the future,” the CTFA told the Taipei Times last month.

“Royal Blues Taipei have been relegated, due to last month’s results. It is true that, at this time, we do not have a second division for the club to play in. However, the CTFA have plans to ... get a second division up and running by 2020 at the earliest,” the statement said.

For Iwanicki and his players, it was quite a setback, with the side left in limbo, a situation that has exposed other issues that result from years of questionable management by the CTFA.

Most soccer pundits agree that most of the problems are the result of neglect by the previous CTFA management team and political interference, but they generally agree that current CTFA president Chiou I-jen and secretary-general Fang Chien-ren are genuinely pushing ahead with reforms.

They are enacting new policies to improve the national squad and grassroots development of the game, along with more transparency and openness in the decisionmaking process.

Iwanicki said his team were not sure who they would play this season, but that they would not give up and would fight to regain their place in the top flight.

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