UKU Tour Structure Changes 2017 (Open division)

We would like to provide an update on plans for UKU Tour 2017 in the Open division.  It has been clear for some years that the structure is not scalable as the number of Open and Women’s teams continues to grow.  We have been planning for some time that we would start to make changes in 2017, although we would obviously prefer to have resolved all of the issues earlier than this.

In 2017 we are only making changes to the Open division, but we recognise there is a body of opinion in the community that is asking for a broader review of the Tour structure and timing.  We will have an ongoing consultation process about the competition structure and calendar over the next few months.

For now the changes are driven by simple logistics: in general we cannot fit all the teams into a single venue (except Nottingham).  However, once teams are split across venues the process for promoting/relegating teams potentially becomes quite problematic for the teams that are affected.

The rules for 2017 are set out below in a format where the changes are all grouped together.  When these are written into the competition rules (being done now) these changes will be spread out in different parts of that document.  

We know these changes are not perfect, and we do expect further changes over the coming few years.

The UKU Tour has been based on the following principles for many years:

  • Multiple-event competition structure - at least three events - that aims to produce an annual UK Ranking list across all teams that compete in it.
  • Tournament formats will be constrained to ensure there will be a high proportion of competitive games.
  • Focused towards teams/clubs that have reasonable level of stability: likely to enter more than one of the events, with stable club rosters regardless of event location
  • Aims to ensure tournaments meet minimum standards, and should help to push for those minimum standards to be raised year on year
  • Will adapt structurally in order to grow capacity in response to clear evidence of higher demand but will not necessarily attempt to provide places to all teams.

The solution we have picked for managing split venues is based on two additional principles:

  • Players need to know where they are playing in advance, and so the decision as to which venue a team will attend will not be dependent on the results of the previous tour event.
  • If possible we should introduce some “regionalisation” into the venues and competition structure to make the events more accessible.  More local events was strongly recurrent theme in the recent online strategic survey (*).  In the short term these changes are only a small step in that direction, but we felt it was possible and desirable to make this part of the solution.
(*) You can still complete the strategic survey if you want to as we will continue to review incoming responses.

Information about the actual changes
There are several principles that have helped to guide the final formulation of the plan for 2017.
  • All teams should know which event they will attend by approx. mid-May; i.e. the event you attend will not change as a result of good or bad results during the season.
  • The structure has attempted to prioritise a kind of “regional fairness” above protecting the A/B boundary teams’ right to the opportunity to compete in the A-Tour at all three events.
We expect there will be further, ongoing changes to Open Tour structure over several years, and teams should expect that their relative final ranking will affect their starting status in the following season.


Event entry allocation
  1. The top 12 teams from UKU Tour 2016 will receive a “protected status” to attend the A-Tour venue at all three competitions.  [*1]
  2. All other open teams will be split approximately in half and assigned to “North” and “South” based on their location.  Note that these “North” and “South” groupings:
    • will not be linked to the regions used in any other UKU competitions, 
    • will not be based on a fixed, pre-determined geographical criteria,
    • may be adjusted from a purely latitude value to take account of the relative locations of the events
  3. The closing date for entry to all three tour events will be FRIDAY MAY 12th.
    • It may still be possible to enter OWT2 and OWT3 after those dates but venue allocation decisions will be taken based on the entries as of 12th May.
  4. OWT1 Nottingham WindFarm will be open to all teams and we expect to have sufficient capacity for the expected number of teams that will want to play.
    • The format will be set up as A/B/C as in previous years with the same system for seeding teams at the start as has been used in previous years.
  5. The primary venues for OWT2 and OWT3 will not have sufficient space for all the teams that are likely to enter, and so a parallel B-Tour event will held in a secondary venue.  
    • OWT2 Cardiff will host Women’s, A, and B-South divisions.
      • Venue for OT2 B-North is TBD (aiming for M62 corridor)
    • OWT3 Birmingham will host Women’s, A and B-North divisions.
      • Venue for OT3 B-South is TBD (aiming for South-East on NW outskirts of London)
  6. Bid allocation at each event is as-follows.  When the number of teams exceeds the capacity, teams within the last-used criteria-group will be split according to the subsequent criteria.
    1. “Protected” teams (if applicable)
    2. “Invited” teams (GB, international, new/extremely local [*2] (if applicable)
    3. Teams assigned to the same region as the event [*3]
    4. Teams ranked in the top 32 teams UKU Tour 2016
    5. UKU-Affiliated clubs
    6. “Local teams” allocated to the other region, based on an algorithm that looks at relative distances between teams and the two tournament locations.  
    7. Remaining teams, in order of their total tour points from UKU Tour 2016
    8. Teams with no record from the previous year will be below those with a ranking, and will be separated by drawing lots should the need arise.
Seeding
  1. Seeding at T2 and T3 will be based on the ranking points at the start of the tournament (with possible exceptions for invited teams) - i.e. there is no promotion/relegation between events.
  2. T2 and T3 will definitely feature A/B crossover rounds.  The decision on whether to implement divisional crossovers at T1 will depend on competition format which itself depends on the final entry.
Ranking Points allocation
Some adjustments to the points-allocation system are required to help avoid a situation where B-Tour teams do well, but are still blocked from advancing by virtue of their initial starting position
  1. The points for winning a B-Tour division that does NOT crossover with A will be equal to the number of points won by the team in A-Tour 13th place.  
  2. When there is only one venue, positions below A-Tour need to have point allocations in pairs.  That is, the next 32 teams need to share the total number of points that would be allocated to the top 16 teams at two seperated B-Tour competitions.  This will require some changes to the tour-points allocation table and those changes are being reviewed now.
[*1] These teams are: Chevron Action Flash, Glasgow 1, Manchester 1, Fire of London 1, Reading 1, Devon 1, EMO 1, Clapham, SMOG, Ka-Pow!, Birmingham 1, Flump.  FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT these teams are NOT guaranteed to play in the A Tour at all three events, they are simply guaranteed entry to that venue.


[*2] New teams, foreign teams, teams representing GB or much-changed teams believed likely by the competitions committee (based on e.g. known personnel or early season results) to finish in the top 24.  Teams whose participation the UKU Competitions Committee believe will benefit the growth of Ultimate – for example, but not limited to, local teams who may not yet be ready to travel to other tournaments, or teams based in underrepresented geographical areas.  


[*3] E.g. at OWT2 Cardiff, teams allocated to the “South region” will have priority.


OBVIOUS QUESTIONS


1. Why no promotion and relegation?
We want to avoid a situation where teams are scrambling to work out which venue they will play at for T2 or T3.  If we retained something like the old promotion/relegation system we would have something like 16-20 teams (maybe more) that could not make firm travel plans for those events.  This would be particularly difficult between T2 and T3 where the calendar constraints have forced us down to a 2-week gap.


2. Do the Protected Teams always play A-Tour?  That doesn't seem fair.
NO THEY DO NOT.  They are guaranteed a spot at that tournament, but the seeding at T2 and T3 will be based on current tour rankings.  If the protected teams do badly they will be overtaken by other teams in the rankings.  We expect and intend that some of those protected teams may start T2 or T3 in the B-Tour.  


3. Why isn't T3 further north?  Birmingham is not in The North.
Clearly this doesn't look quite right, but this was the best combination of main venues we were able to secure this year.  We are not able to use the Manchester Wythenshawe venue due to other commitments they have; and we've not been able to find any new comparable venues further north than Nottingham and Birmingham.  Please contact us if you have suggestions for venues.  We are always keen to find more venues.


4. Why is Tour 1 different?
We will continue to host one very large club event per year because we see them offering a different experience for players and spectators.


5. What about 2018 and beyond?
We will be doing a consultation project on the competition structure and calendar during 2017.  This will be used to inform further adjustments or major changes (depending on the feedback).  


6. How do I provide feedback?
We are unlikely to make substantial changes for 2017.
For the longer term, as noted above we will be attempting to provide a structured forum for providing feedback.  However members are always welcome to provide feedback, raise issues or concerns by contacting admin@ukultimate.com (who will forward the email to the relevant people) or by contacting members of the Competition Committee directly.  UKU staff and competition committee members also monitor online forums (britdisc, reddit, etc) but note that these are not necessarily representative of the whole community.