The Malta Independent 16 May 2021, Sunday

Updated: Hamrun Spartans declared football champions for the first time in 30 years

Albert Galea Friday, 9 April 2021, 16:04 Last update: about 2 months ago

Hamrun Spartans have been declared as Malta’s football champions for the first time in 30 years.

The decision was taken at an MFA Executive meeting on Friday after health authorities this week refused to lift a ban on competitive sports, a decision which meant that the MFA deemed it impossible to conclude the season within the timeframes established by UEFA.

It is the second season in a row where the domestic football season has had to be halted due to measures related to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The club had been pre-empting this decision, and early on Friday released a statement appealing for supporters to follow Covid regulations and not host any impromptu celebrations which breach social gathering measures.

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With exactly 75% of the season having been played, new regulations implemented by the MFA after last season – when Floriana were declared champions – meant that the season could be ended without being declared null and void.

Hamrun were five points clear of Hibernians – who were their only realistic close challengers – with seven games still to be played.

Gzira United were the next closest challengers, sitting 10 points behind the Spartans.

With the financial backing of their new club President, Gozitan property magnate Joseph Portelli, the Spartans put together a formidable team of Maltese international players and foreign players of a certain calibre, such as Cape Verde international Dodo and former AS Roma striker Seydou Doumbia.

Hamrun ultimately only lost one game out of 23 – a 2-0 defeat to Birkirkara last October – while they finished the season with the best offence – 56 goals scored – and joint best defence – 20 goals conceded.

Their impressive record takes them to their first league triumph since the 1990/91 season.

In a statement, the MFA also announced what was to happen with relegations and the MFA's other leagues.

They said that with the league declared as completed, the bottom four teams - Zejtun Corinthians, Tarxien Rainbows, Lija Athletic, and Senglea Athletic, the latter having already been mathematically relegated with only 2 points to their name - were declared as relegated from the league.

The Challenge League meanwhile was declared null and void on the basis that 75% of the matches have not been played.  Only Qormi will be relegated from the league as the club was already mathematically set to finish in the red zone.

Marsa and Pembroke Athleta were in a class of their own in the race for the Premier League when compared with the rest of the teams: Marsa lead the standings, while Pembroke were in second place.  Their closest challengers were San Gwann – who were 14 and 11 points respectively behind the leading duo.

It was not explicitly said in the MFA's statement that they will not be promoted to the Premier League. 

This newsroom is in fact informed that a final decision is not expected next week - namely because the Premier League is meant to contain 14 teams.  Relegating four teams and not promoting any would leave it with just 12.  Therefore, Marsa and Pembroke may still be promoted - or the two teams in the Premier League closest to safety - Zejtun and Tarxien, the latter of whom ironically was only saved from certain relegation last season by the league's stoppage due to Covid-19 - could maintain their place in the league.  

The Presidents of Zejtun and Tarxien have already made a request to the MFA to this end, while the President of Lija Athletic has called for an amendment governing the relegation of teams to be declared null and void because a play-off could not take place.

Under the regulations for the season, the team which finished 12th in the Premier League was set to go for a play-off with the third place finishers of the Challenge League to see who keeps the Premier League spot.

Owing to the abandonment of the Challenge League however, this play-off will not take place.

The 12th spot was shared between three teams: last year’s champions Floriana, Gudja United, and Balzan Youths, who have also underachieved this season.

They all sit on 27 points – a situation which in usual times would have brought about a form of round-robin decider, as Maltese football does not operate on the goal average or direct encounter system when classifying teams for such places.

San Gwann meanwhile held 3rd place in the Challenge League.

The MFA's Women's League was also declared null and void for the same reason as the Challenge League. Only one game was left to be played before the desired 75% threshold was passed - a game between Birkirkara and Raiders Gharghur.  Ironically, this comes to the detriment of Birkirkara themselves, who had a 3 point lead in the league despite having played three games less than their nearest rivals.

 

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