Thinley Namgay

The 2021 season of BOB Bhutan Premier League (BPL) will be different from the past seasons, according to the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF).

The BFF has a new format and unlike in the past, the tournament will be played in three different phases.

The new format is expected to have a better representation of football from all the regions.

The first phase of the league will be played among teams in the dzongkhags.

Close to 45 teams from Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Sarpang are participating in the dzongkhag championship at present. Eleven teams are from Thimphu.

The champions of the dzongkhag league will play BPL 2021 qualifying matches in Thimphu. Twelve teams consisting of five BPL teams, two super league teams and five champions from dzongkhags will play against each other twice in a round-robin format.

The top six teams will qualify for the BPL championship. The finalists will play each other twice on home and away grounds.

BFF’s competition officer, Kinley Dorji, said: “We felt that such a format would increase the number of matches for players and fulfil FIFA’s mandate.”

In the past, the five best teams from the BPL used to get an automatic place in the league. They used to play only 18 matches.

With the new format, teams that qualify for the BPL Championship will play around 30 games. The format is expected to help players improve their skills and exposure as the number of matches has been increased.

Recruitment of players will be done phase-wise, according to BFF. In the first phase of the league, each team can sign four foreign players, any number of players that are not registered with BFF and three BPL registered players or players with valid contracts with clubs.

In the second phase, clubs will be allowed to register four foreign payers and three players from the 2021 district leagues. However, teams that have qualified from district leagues can recruit 10 players from any other teams from district leagues to strengthen their squads.

In the final phase, clubs can register three players from the second phase. But the players should be from the bottom six teams of the qualifying tournament.

Thimphu City FC’s president, Hishey Tshering, welcomed the new format. “Clubs will get to play more matches. The top teams will be playing each other four times as compared to only twice in the previous format.”

He said that the format would help raise the quality of football in the country.