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Egyptian Premier League: New Year, New Format.
Following a one-year suspension due to the tragic events that took place in Port Said stadium on February 1st 2012, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has officially announced that they intend to commence the new Premier League season on February 2nd 2013.
The EFA had already set three or four previous dates for possible league starts however none actually went through mainly due to security and safety reasons. Al-Ahly supporters especially the ultras of which 72 members lost their lives in the Port Said Stadium disaster insist that the Egyptian league should remain suspended until the court investigating the case issues a verdict as they will not allow football to be played in Egypt before that matter is settled. It is important to note that court is due to deliver a final verdict on the Port Said tragedy on January 26th 2013, just 7 days before the league’s scheduled re-start.
The new set date comes with new format and a new set of regulations. The Egyptian Premier League for the season 2012/2013 will be played as follows:
18 teams (Al Masry is excluded).
Over two groups, whereas top two of each group qualify to the semi-finals.
Only in specific stadia, mainly the ones owned by the Egyptian Army or the Ministry of Interior, although some teams without significant fan bases will play in their home grounds.
- The bottom two clubs from each group will be relegated.
Group A: Al-Ahly (Holders), Ghazl El-Mahalla, El-Gouna, Wadi Degla, Smouha, ENPPI, Harras El-Hodoud, Beni Sweif Telephones and Misr El-Maqassa.
Group B: Zamalek, Ismaily, Al-Ittihad of Alexandria, El-Dakhleya, El-Entag El-Harby, Ittihad El-Shorta, Petrojet, Tala’a El-Gaish and Arab Contractors.
Al-Ahly will play their home matches at the Military Academy stadium while Zamalek will play their home matches at the Air Defense Stadium. The fixture list is expected to be released soon.
Whether this time the league will actually kick-off or not remains to be seen, however, it is worth mentioning that this format has been deployed in Egypt before four times in the competition’s 65-year history, last of which was the 1975-1976 season.