Under the current structure, a new WFTDA (Full Member league) team is required to play 2 in-region bouts (against other currently ranked Full Member leagues) to be eligible for ranking the first time. After that leagues are required to play 6 games a year (interleague or otherwise) in order to be considered active and eligible for an invitation to their respective Regional play-off tournament. Other than that, there are no other requirements regarding a team’s opponents. The system is far from flawless, but it has sufficed so far. Could it be better?
There is much scuttlebutt surrounding a split in the four WFTDA divisions based upon level of play. Certain leagues will be in an upper division of sorts within their region, while the remaining leagues will be in the lower division. Of course, no specifics regarding this split have been made available to the general public, but there is enough speculation going on that I would be surprised if this didn’t turn out to be true. Currently, the West Region has 30 Full Member leagues, the East has 25, North Central has 27, and the South Central Region has 22 Full Member leagues. These numbers don’t count any of the 59 current Apprentice leagues that may become part of one of these regions in the next year or two. Per region, that is a large number of leagues.
If the division split comes to pass, I would imagine that the upper division tier of each region would have 12 to 14 teams, with the remaining teams making up the lower division. Operating under this assumption, and setting aside those teams in the lower division (for now), let’s look at the top twelve teams from the WFTDA West Region. In order from one to twelve, they are: Rocky Mountain, Oly, Bay Area, Rose City, Rat City, Denver, Jet City, Sacred City, Tucson, Pikes Peak, Duke City, and Angel City. So, for the sake of geography, lets put Oly, Bay Area, Rose City, Rat City, Jet City, and Angel City into a group (now referred to as Group A). That leaves Rocky Mountain, Denver, Sacred City, Tucson, Pikes Peak, and Duke City in a different group (now referred to as Group B).
Using this setup, a team would be required to play all of the other teams within their group, utilizing five of their eight required bouts in a calendar year. The other three bouts could be against any other WFTDA Full Member league team. Of course, if a team wanted to schedule additional bouts, they would be allowed, just as they are now. However, those additional bouts would not be against any other team from their group. Meaning that in one calendar year (excluding Region Playoffs or Nationals), a team would only play each team within their group one time. Once all of the teams from within a group have bouted one another, the top four teams from that group – based upon their win-loss record – would be invited to their Region Playoffs. As both groups would have four teams representing them, a double-elimination style Region Playoffs (using the eight teams), would decide the top teams to go to Nationals.
The teams in the lower region would fulfill whatever bout requirements the WFTDA places on them. At the end of the season, the top four teams from the lower region would take part in a tournament with the four teams from the upper division that were not eligible for their Region Playoffs. Again, as there would be eight teams, a double-elimination style playoff format would work best. The top four teams from the tournament would then become part of the upper division the next season. Meaning, if one of the four teams from the upper division playing in this tournament did not finish in fourth place or better, that team would be a part of the lower division the following season. That way, there is a mechanism for teams to move up or down between divisions.
One of the benefits to this system, is the lack of need to vote on what the rankings of teams within a region are each quarter. A win-loss record is something that can be updated immediately after a bout has taken place. Shifts in standings will happen multiple times a quarter, rather than just once a quarter. Furthermore, we will know going into a bout how much importance a certain bout will have in regards to the Regional Playoffs. A side benefit is enhancing (friendly) regional rivalries, or creating new ones where there haven’t been ones before. Another possible benefit is three-day derby weekends where four teams meet up to bout one another over the course of three days (like at Home Town Throw Down last season).
Last, this could possibly save leagues on travel costs. It isn’t cheap to fly across the country (as I learned this past year). Having a system in place that encourages regional play could be a big benefit to leagues as far as travel costs are concerned. And anything that can lift a part of the financial burden will only be good for derby in the long run.
Regardless what decisions the WFTDA makes regarding the Regions and their eventual divisions within, flat track derby just continues to grow, with more leagues forming every month. This is great for the sport. Hopefully plans are at least being discussed as to how to handle the coming onslaught of derby teams.