Strengthening team identity in SPL via a relegation system

I wasn't in time to beat the SPLXI captain signups (that's what reminded me to post this), but it's fine as it wouldn't make sense to implement this for SPLXI anyway.

I think SPL teams have a bit of an identity crisis. I've been following this tour closely since SPL 5 but I honestly can only think of one current team that has a consistent "character," that being the Sharks. Teams have a character for a season, sure, but it changes so vastly from season to season that nothing really seems to stick. I think this is partly because of our manager selection process. The manager is mostly who sets the team culture, and long managerial dynasties in SPL are so rare.

The system I'm proposing we move toward is basically exactly what is used in NPA, for those familiar with that. We set relegation thresholds—for example, getting 4 or fewer points in one season, or averaging 7 or fewer points across three seasons. Teams which meet these thresholds are removed from the league. If a team is not relegated, however, the current manager has full control over who gets to captain that team the following season, be it themselves or someone else (of course, with some veto power given to TDs so they don't make sogeking the new manager or something, but the idea is that it's the manager's choice). I'm assuming based on what I've seen that there's already a legacy bias in selecting managers, so this mostly just codifies that, but with the important addition that if a manager does not want to return, they get to choose who will carry the torch forward, with the idea that managers will usually choose someone who is similar to themselves.

Enough new managers are chosen to fill the slots vacated by relegated teams, which is ideally about 1-2 per season. Each of these managers makes a brand new "expansion" team instead of assuming the identity of the relegated team.


I think there are three main benefits to adopting a system like this:

1. Improves the continuity of team identities

As I mentioned, NPA uses a system like this, and frankly a lot more of its teams have a distinct identity. Even though I'm more involved in Smogon than the VGC community, I can think of way more notable "character traits" about more NPA teams that have persisted across years and management teams, than I can for SPL.

Retiring team names when their management has been ousted is also an important part of achieving this effect. For an example that Smogon players will get, look at the Frogs. Six years later and we all (well, those of us who were around for it) have a distinct image of the team culture of the Frogs. If we'd kept having teams that called themselves the Frogs this whole time, that wouldn't be the case.

2. Gives something to play for, even after playoffs are decided

With the current structure of the league, as soon as you're too far behind to hit 10 points, there's really no reason to keep playing. This is obviously not very fun for the people it happens to. On the flipside, once you have locked playoffs, you're only playing to gatekeep, and at times it can even be beneficial to intentionally throw. Either situation is detrimental to the league because it means that the order of your schedule matters in a completely luck-based way. For example, my own Lindworms would probably have been eliminated in week 8 of Snake except we had the good fortune of playing the Taipans after they'd already locked playoffs and they swapped ABR and Ezrael's positions in the lineup for giggles. Instead we almost snuck into playoffs and we frankly didn't deserve to. Relegation conditions obviously give failing teams something to play for, but they also give teams that have locked playoffs incentive to keep racking up points to keep their average high, assuming you have an x average over y years relegation condition. This prevents bullshit like that from happening—and it's a pretty regular occurrence so I think this is a big win!

3. Improves the fairness of the retain system for new managers

This is the way NPA handles retains for expansion teams: after all returning teams name their retains, the expansion teams get to bid pre-draft on the retain rights of unretained players. So the expansion teams might be at a very slight disadvantage compared to returning teams, but it's definitely fairer than the current system where a new manager can just get majorly blessed or cursed by which retains they get.


Of course, this system isn't completely perfect. One issue is that we'll have to produce 1-2 new high quality logos per year. All I can really say to that is: yeah, but I think it's worth it. There's also the risk of a player hating their manager so much that they decide to throw so that the manager will be relegated. I think that one can be handled just by making it clear that whether a manager returns is ultimately subject to TD discretion, so you don't have to throw to get someone removed if you really hate them. I'm not too worried about it actually happening, though, because I've seen some truly awful and hated managers in NPA and none of them have ever had players throw out of spite. If you have any other concerns, please post them below, I'd love to get this idea ironed out so it can be implemented and improve the spectator storylines for the biggest spectator tour on this site!

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