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Understanding the 2021 league reforms and how they affect the league structure

By Shafic Kiyaga
Wakiso Giants midfielder Hassan Ssenyonjo in action against Tooro United at the Kabaka Kyabaggue Stadium, Wakiso | Wakiso Giants

Starting with the 2021/2022 season, the Uganda league pyramid will have a massive shakeup in its structure, especially with the Uganda Premier League and the Big League.

The move is in line with the Federation of Uganda Football Associations’ (FUFA) bid to have the league run in a more professional and manageable way.

But to also to achieve the objective of developing and promoting football for all.

The current league structure was developed and implemented following the Jinja Declaration in 2010. And according to FUFA Deputy CEO Decolas Kizza, one of the champions for the reforms argues that the move was overdue.

“The last changes to the league structure were made in 2010,” Decolas told Football256 before adding.

“And since then we have had a number of support programs aligning with the club’s agendas, and clearly 10 years is a long time to stay stagnant.”

“There was the need to have some development, and we think the suggested reforms drive us forward towards our objectives,” he added.

So, what are the changes and how do they affect the league structure?

Uganda Premier League

The top division in the country which currently runs a 16-team roster will be reduced to 12 teams. The current 16 teams will be maintained for the 2020/2021 season, however, six teams will be relegated at the end of the season, while two will be promoted.

With 12 teams in the top flight, the number of rounds will also increase from two to three rounds per season, bringing the total number of games to 33 per team.

Meanwhile, the total number of games will drop from 480 to just 396 games across the entire season.

For the three rounds played between respective teams, every team will host a game while the third round will be hosted by the winner on aggregate over two legs between the two teams.

FUFA Big League

The current FUFA big league roster features 18 teams divided into two groups namely; Elgon and Rwenzori, both divided into nine teams respectively.

With the reforms in place, the Big league will consist of 16 teams still divided into two groups of eight teams each.

Up to three slots are up for promotion, with the leaders of each group given a direct ticket to the top tier, while the second and third-placed teams in each group tussle out in the playoffs for the final promotion slot.

However, the dynamics will change from 2021 with two slots up for promotion.

When the reforms are effected, the winners of each group could be promoted directly, or they could be subjected to a rather ridiculous playoff including the second-placed teams from each group to determine promotion.

Four teams are currently being relegated to the third division, they will rise to six teams for the 2020/2021 season, but four teams will be relegated from the 2021/2022 season, while four teams will be promoted from then onwards.

The U-20 Reserves league

The reforms will also see the introduction of the U20 league, with all 12 Premier League clubs compelled to register a team in the league. The league will be played over three rounds.

The added ingredient however is that players with a first division license are eligible to play in the reserve league, while a player with a reserve league license is eligible to play in the first division.

The FUFA Junior Leauge

The FUFA Juniors’ League will now be played throughout the eight regions in the country, under the supervision of the Uganda Youth Football Association (UYFA) and the respective Football Region Associations (FRA).

While the FRA may manage more than one Junior League in their region, every league shall consist of 12 teams per league.

For example, Buganda RFA can organize FJL-Wakiso and FJL-Mpigi, with the overall winner in the region determined under an agreed format.

The UPL clubs may decide to compete in their local and respective Juniors’ League, but they will no longer be compelled to register teams in the U-17 league.

The First Division, Second Division, the UPL U20 Reserve Leagues are to be under the Professional League Board and Professional League Secretariat replacing the current UPL Board and UPL Secretariat respectively.

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