Member clubs of the South England Men’s Lacrosse Association (SEMLA) have voted in favour of a shake-up of the existing league structure, with two parallel league competitions replacing the current single league setup.
After months of significant work to refine the system, the new agreed structure introduces two parallel league competitions, in addition to the existing Flags knockout competition, with the leagues running on alternate Saturdays.
A “SEMLA League” sees the 21 top-ranked teams playing across three divisions of seven teams; Premier Division, Division 1 and Division 2.
Below that the South of England divides into four; West (South), West (North), East (South) and East (North), this halves the greatest distance between any two teams in the lower regional divisions.
A parallel “SEMLA Local League” sees the South of England divided into smaller regions with the intention, where possible, to have most teams within one hour’s travel time.
It sees the biggest change in almost 15 years for the SEMLA league structure which had consisted of a top Premiership division and East and West lower divisions.
The game of men’s lacrosse has grown over the past decade, but with an increase in the geographical spread of clubs, participation had started to decline due to increasing distances and travel times between teams.
Last season, Brighton Panthers spent over seven hours on the road to play Milton Keynes and for Birmingham to play Plymouth required a round trip of over 400 miles.
The Local Leagues will encourage new club growth and university team participation through reduced cost and travel commitments, with clubs able to enter exclusively into the new ‘local league’ setup.
The Flags knockout competition remains the same but with a ‘ripple-down’ for 1st round losers into the lower Flags competition.
This gives at least two Flags games for most teams with an option for neutral venues for Flags games if two teams from different regions are to play each other with significant travel.
The benefits of the restructure are already visible as eight new clubs applied to join SEMLA for the 2018/19 season.
This included two new clubs in London and a clutch of clubs in the Midlands.
The formation of a Midlands Local League is an exciting development in looking to fill the areas between the South and North England lacrosse associations.
Some university teams not yet playing Saturday lacrosse will be keeping a close eye on next season. If it goes as planned, SEMLA could see another influx of new teams for 2019/20 and continued growth of men’s lacrosse for the region.