The key to understanding the league rules on team selection is the principle that all teams must be selected on playing strength from the top down. This means that the 1st team should be composed of the strongest players available, the 2nd team from the strongest players remaining, and so on down the club. Given that form and availability do not vary widely from week to week, League Managers would generally expect to see consistency in the names appearing on the teamsheets week by week for a particular team.
Obviously there will be times when players are unavailable, injured, cannot make the time of a particular match, suffer a loss of form, or show potential to play higher, and there will be consequent changes in team composition. The leagues understand that clubs need flexibility in team selection, and that is why we do not have general rules arbitrarily limiting player movement such as occur in some other leagues, like limits on the number of times a player can play up or down in a season.
This flexibility of course can give opportunities to unscrupulous clubs to manipulate team selection to unfairly strengthen teams for key matches, and to control this we have a number of limitations within the selection rules:
In higher divisions teams have larger match squads and there may be players who generally have little time on the pitch. A 2nd team goalkeeper regularly on the bench for the 1st team is a good example of this. The rules allow for such players to play for a lower team on the same day in order to ensure that they get a decent amount of pitch time. This applies only to bench players in Divisions 2 or above, and the player may not play down in a team that is more than two teams lower than the team for which he or she is a regular bench player.
Similar considerations apply to clubs playing in the national league, where our rules allow for a 1st team bench player to play in an East League match for a lower team in the same weekend. However, because this flexibility has sometimes been misused, there are some additional restrictions on which national league 1st team players can play down for match practice each weekend.
We recognize that from time to time players may drop out of matches at relatively short notice, leaving insufficient time to rearrange selections throughout the club. Under these circumstances we allow a team to select one player who is already playing for another team on the same day. However, this applies only to teams in Divisions 3 or below. Doubling up is subject to controls, the key ones being a limit on how far down the club's teams a player can be used, a ban on doubling up of a field player if it gives a team more than 11 players in all, and a limitation to one player per team.
We also recognize that clubs often have only as many goalkeepers as teams, and that the unavailability of a regular keeper is a significant problem. Goalkeepers can therefore double up as often as necessary (but only playing as goalkeepers).
Special allowances are available for the bottom league team of club, because it is this team that bears the brunt of all player shortages. Rather than have such teams regularly forfeit games for lack of players, the league extends the rule to allow a total of four players to be doubled up into the bottom team, subject to advance permission from the League Manager.
Note : when a player doubles up matches, it is the higher of the two teams that is deemed to be the providing team, and the lower is the receiving team (even if the player normally plays for the lower team). This is important in interpreting the restrictions in this part of the selection rules.
Players cannot play for EML Premier A and EWL Premier Division teams unless they are registered with the League Manager. Players moving from other clubs may not be selected to play in East League matches until a transfer process is fully completed. The onus is on the Captain of the team to be sure that these rules have been observed before adding new names to his or her squad.
No selection rules can be perfect. They will always be a compromise between allowing flexibility in team selection and controlling unfair practices. Whilst it may seem impossible for the leagues to police these rules, our teamsheet system can be very effective in identifying dubious team selections, and opposition teams are also quick to point out apparent discrepancies. Penalties are applied when unfair selections are identified, and the leagues then monitor future selection policies for the teams concerned.
If in doubt on any aspect of team selection relative to league rules, discusss the situation well in advance of the match with your East League Manager