Developing a second-tier for A-League
Travis Dodd celebrates a goal with Steven McGarry during the round 23 A-League match between Perth Glory and the Central Coast Mariners at Perth Oval AAP Image: Tony McDonough
Vince Rugari’s article on the new Australian Premier League seemed to touch a few nerves when it came to promotion/relegation debate.
Some are keen to see some of the old NSL clubs join the A-League, others claim that these team do not have the required support or facilities to have this happen.
One thing is for certain though: the AFC demands that all of its professional leagues have a promotion and relegation system in place. So, sometime over the next 10 to 20 years, the excuse that our fledgling league is still finding its feet will no longer fly amongst the AFC delegates – we need to start planning now.
Let’s face it, if any A-League team were to be relegated from the competition at the end of this season, it would certainly face financial ruin. With the Fury and Gold Coast debacles still fresh in everyone’s memory, another club going belly up is exactly what Australian football does not need at the moment.
So how does the APL find an even balance between providing a healthy competition to feed the A-League whilst still being financially responsible?
First of all, let’s rule out a nationwide second-tier. The A-League is having enough difficulties establishing itself as a professional league. A competition existing underneath this – trying to operate on even thinner budgets, with potentially zero TV dollars coming in – is simply not going to happen.
Second, any system that is set in place needs to be weighted heavily in favour of any A-League team fighting against relegation. Any A-League club should be able to beat a state-league club over two legs, especially when they have the benefit of playing at home second.
The idea is to have relegation only a real possibility for a very poor team – in the first seven seasons of the A-League only the woeful Gold Coast from last year realistically could have been beaten by a state-league club.
Here’s how I see it working: currently there are nine member federations of the FFA, and ideally each should have an equal claim to providing a challenger to play-off for a spot in the A-League.
So in the weeks leading up to the A-League Finals series there is a competition that pools these teams against each other. Where it would be held could be subject to a tender process. Rather than selling games to Bathurst or Launceston in a bid to bring football to the regional centres, let them host these playoffs.
This “Challenger Cup” has a duel role; exposing the second-tier teams to a national audience, and allowing an extra few games to be added to the TV schedule (hello impending TV rights deal!). Eventually, through the FFA Cup, state teams can be seeded into groups (similar to how the UEFA club coefficients work). But for now let’s assume it would look something like this -
To be played over the final two weeks of the A-League regular Season – March 23-31.
Capital Football Winner
Football NSW Winner
Football NT Winner
Football Federation Victoria Winner
Football West Winner
Football Federation Tasmania Winner
Football Federation Queensland Winner
Northern NSW Football Winner
Finals Week 1 – April 05-07
Pool A Winner
Pool B Winner
Pool C Winner
Relegation Playoff 1:
Finals Week 2 – April 12-14
Challenger Cup Winner vs. HAL 10th Place
Relegation Playoff 2:
Finals Week 3 – April 20-21
HAL 10th Place vs. Challenger Cup Winner
In each pool game, teams would only play each other once.
Each pool game needs a result – If scores are even at the end of the game, extra time and then penalties will be used to separate the teams.
In the case of a three way tie at the end of the pool games, goals scored will be used to separate the teams.
If the teams can still not be separated, the highest seed will go through.
Admittedly, there are some flaws in this system. What happens if a club succeed in getting promotion but cannot fund its existence in the A-League? What if it’s facilities are not up to A-League standard?
All worthwhile questions. But one thing is clear – we need to find a resolution to the second-tier issue. So let me know your thoughts? Am I on the right track?