A model for promotion and relegation in the A-League

Jordan Van De Vorst Roar Rookie

By Jordan Van De Vorst, Jordan Van De Vorst is a Roar Rookie

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    Like many of you, yesterday’s announcement by the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) came as great news to me.

    Whether their proposal comes to fruition exactly as described remains to be seen, but it surely starts to create a discussion about what the future of Australian football looks like. I think the response from both the AFC and FIFA will be crucial in how this all unfolds.

    Regarding an appropriate model for promotion and relegation specifically, I think the first step is to get more teams into the A-League via promotion only. While I hate to say it, this means putting expansion on the backburner until 2021 at the earliest.

    Adding more franchises to the A-League only to eventually allow pre-existing clubs entry into the competition makes no sense. It would be ridiculous if Craig Foster’s south expansion side were given a license only for Wollongong Wolves to then gain entry via promotion. Who would fans in the region support? The same could be said about a combination Tasmanian franchise with Hobart and/or Launceston championship teams respectively.

    Although a delay in adding more teams to the league would be a frustration to many, I think most fans would be patient if they could see a long-term vision for the league. The imminent introduction of a second division – for argument’s sake, the Championship – followed by the promotion of high-performing teams in four to five years and relegation in eight to ten years would certainly be worth the wait.

    This then leads to an appropriate model for promotion and relegation. For me, it’s about making promotion and relegation a possibility but an improbability. That is, teams facing the chop are given chances to stay up. Likewise, for teams that want a shot at the A-League, they must conclusively demonstrate they are up to standard.

    My model would there involve the bottom two teams in the A-League and the top two teams of the Championship. For example’s sake let’s say that Brisbane Roar finish second last and Central Coast Mariners finish last, as per the ladder currently, and that South Melbourne and Brisbane Strikers finish first and second in the Championship.

    (Image: Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

    Brisbane Roar and Central Coast would play off in a one-leg fixture to see who faces relegation. As Brisbane finished higher, this would be held at Suncorp Stadium. Whoever wins escapes relegation. Similarly, South Melbourne and Brisbane Strikers would contest a playoff at Lakeside Stadium for the opportunity to gain promotion.

    Assuming the higher ranked teams win both fixtures, Central Coast and South Melbourne would then play a two-leg fixture to see who gets a spot in the A-League.

    As you can see, this would make promotion to the A-League difficult to achieve as well as giving teams a fair and reasonable opportunity to avoid relegation. If an A-League team finishes in the bottom two of the league then loses a playoff game against another A-League battler and then loses a two-leg tie to a Championship team, they deserve to go down. Likewise, if a Championship team does gain promotion, it will be well earned.

    What you might therefore see if this model is adopted is very little change in the make-up of the A-League teams. Four or five changes might take ten or 15 years. A slow burn in changes to the league would mean that every team in the A-League deserves to be there.

    This model would also allow any Championship team that does achieve promotion the reasonable chance to stay up. Their goal initially would be to finish third last at a minimum and therefore achieve a berth in the following season. However, if they did finish in the bottom two, they would be given a couple of opportunities to show they still deserve to be there and that another high-performing Championship team is not more deserving.

    Once this model has been bedded in, you could then move to two-legged fixtures in both of the initial two playoffs and further down the track implement a similar model to promote and relegate two teams between the leagues. These fixtures should be played midweek during the A-League finals series.

    Promotion and relegation is a matter of when, not if, in Australian football. It needs to be a possibility for a Championship to get promoted but an improbability for an A-League team to get relegated.

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    The Crowd Says (106)

    • October 30th 2017 @ 3:33am
      lesterlike said | October 30th 2017 @ 3:33am | ! Report

      ” It would be ridiculous if Craig Foster’s south expansion side were given a license only for Wollongong Wolves to then gain entry via promotion. Who would fans in the region support? ”
      .
      Why? If anything, the two in the same tier would be a chance of a half decent rivalry game.

      It’s utterly ridiculous that Southern Expansion is determined to include Illawarra and ruin any chance of the Wolves returning. Wollongong is perfectly capable of supporting it’s own team and South Sydney will have such a huge base of Corporate support and juniors that they don’t need to also include Wollongong.

      Fans already hate that their Rugby League team is already a Sydney team in everything but name and South Coast Football are pathetic for not pushing for the Wolves bid instead.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 7:45am
        League table speaks said | October 30th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

        Exactly right. Its funny now even with pro rel edging closer to reality, people still misunderstand the whole point.

        You don’t get to decide which teams are included. Performance decides. The league table.

        Hint: that’s the exciting bit ….not knowing how it will all pan out.

        • Roar Pro

          October 30th 2017 @ 11:18am
          Kasey said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

          It always surprises me the ability of someone to believe in a myth. Santa Claus I get, it’s a part of childhood ‘training’ by parents to produce good behaviour out of children using the delayed reward of gifts from a being who ‘knows’ when the child is being naughty. The Myth that the ills of Australian football will be magically cured by adding a second division to the existing A-League with promotion/relegation because then it will just ‘look like a proper’ league should(as if there is a one-size fits all model that determines what is proper and what isn’t?) is not as easy to explain away for me. I mean if the A-League is doing well (which it is without being spectacularly successful) but there is always the underlying concern that at least one club if not 2 isn’t completely solid in its off-field finances I just can’t for the life of me figure out how adding a structure on top of a foundation that isn’t the most stable isn’t going to be a disaster of epic proportions potentially dragging the whole kit and caboodle of professional domestic football down to the level of unmitigated disaster from which it might not ever recover. Masters was the biggest corporate own-goal in modern Australian business history. I’m not keen on turning football into a sport version of “what not to do” and a second division just smacks of self-interest (of the NPL clubs) being championed over the greater good of the sport(the need for a strong and stable A-League)

          • October 30th 2017 @ 11:33am
            League table speaks said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

            (Wow you’ve been bottling that one up for a bit geez lol)

            The current Aleague smacks of the worst kind of self interest. Maintaining a closed league at the expense of the Whole of Football.

            An open league for Australia is all about connecting the clubs that are already there. It’s far more inclusive of NPL clubs that have just as much right to play their way into the top tier as anyone else.

            Anyone working in Australian football who is uncomfortable with this should consider if they are in the right game. This is Football …:)

          • October 30th 2017 @ 11:47am
            Redondo said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

            ‘I just can’t for the life of me figure out how adding a structure on top of a foundation that isn’t the most stable isn’t going to be a disaster of epic proportions’

            Kasey – You’ve got that the wrong way round. The whole point of having a 2nd division is to put a foundation (i.e. 2nd div) under a structure that currently lacks one (i.e. A-League).

            The potential value of a well-thought out 2nd div (with eventual pro/rel) is to underpin the top level of football in Australia by directly connecting it to the rest of Australia’s huge footballing community.

            Setting up a 2nd div is a gamble – but done right the gamble needn’t impact the A-League negatively.

          • October 30th 2017 @ 11:47am
            R King said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

            Well said Kasey, lets get the foundation sound before trying to build something onto to it.

            By sound I mean an expanded A League, run by the A League clubs, sure lets have a second division but promotion/relegation should be down the track and with a clear set of guidelines as to what you need to do to gain promotion.

            • October 30th 2017 @ 12:18pm
              Redondo said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

              I understand your concern but surely the A-League’s biggest natural advantage over other sporting codes in Australia is Football’s massive participation rate. If the FFA can find an effective way to exploit that natural advantage then the A-League should grow organically.

              Which reminds me of gardening, which I loathe, but it is a wonderful source of metaphors – here’s a crappy one…

              If Football’s flowers are the A-League teams, and, its roots are the wider Football community, then a 2nd Division would serve as the crown of the football plant. As in…

              ‘The crown is the place where the plant stem meets the roots, the point where the energy and nutrients from the roots are transferred to the stems and then to the beautiful flowers that are your gardening reward.’

              • November 5th 2017 @ 9:23am
                Rolly said | November 5th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

                Football may have a.massive participation rate but the A league can not tap into that because it is too capital city centric and concentrated in too few cities .it’s only a ten team comp in a handful of cities ..the A league is too exclusive not inclusive .it needs to grow to 16 teams to be inclusive.

          • October 30th 2017 @ 10:00pm
            lesterlike said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:00pm | ! Report

            If you think a franchised top tier is the foundation of any successful football system then you have things very back to front.

        • October 30th 2017 @ 11:43am
          Jordan said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

          Hi LTS,

          Thanks for reading the article.

          My point was not trying to decide who is included. Apologies if my specific example of Southern and ‘Gong weren’t entirely on point (I don’t know the area well). My point is that no teams/franchises should be created out of thin air if clubs that already exist in the region are potentially going to be included via promotion in the not too distant future.

          If foreign businessmen want to invest in an Australian football team, they should invest in one that already exists in my opinion, not create one that many potentially alienate those that already exist in the region.

          We have 10 franchise “Big City” teams, there no going back with them, but if more teams are to be added to the A-League it should be via promotion for a team that already exists.

          • October 30th 2017 @ 11:57am
            League table speaks said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

            Yeah i agree although if a businessman will only invest in the game if its in a new venture, there’s no problem there imo. As long as it’s not going to be guaranteed a spot in the top flight. But better to invest in an existing NPL club like the Wolves.

            I think the point lester was getting at is there would be no issue if two Illawarra region teams won through some day. Its a big area. Even teams from regional areas need local rivals.

            Maybe the bloke from Red Bull will buy Bermagui FC one day lol ….

            • October 30th 2017 @ 12:47pm
              Jordan said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

              Yes I agree. If local rivalries are formed via two strong teams from a similar region being promoted then all the better.

              At its best this would create some great new derbies. At its worst, as noted here in the Syd WSW example by a fellow Roarer, this could deny certain regions of any teams in the A-League in certain seasons.

              But that is the nature of promotion and relegation. It won’t work out perfectly very often in that resoect, if ever.

              Regarding creating a franchise because investors insist on starting from scratch, their case would have to be compelling for not taking on any existing team and would need to involve building a stadium in my opinion.

              • October 30th 2017 @ 1:30pm
                League table speaks said | October 30th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

                There are so many NPL clubs out there that could be invested in. Even a rebrand where the club agrees to it.

                The best thing is not knowing what the outcome will be. I think this is what will make a more football style league so compelling to Australians. They are already familiar with it from afar.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 9:08pm
        Rolland said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:08pm | ! Report

        Rugby league died in Wollongong when the Steelers where forced to merge with the dragons .three games a year is all Wollongong gets .you can’t be a loyal fan for three games a year not worth supporting and to commute to sydney isn’t worth it three hours there and back to Homebush soccer will die on the south coast if Wollongong are forced to be a third wheel in a Sydney sutherland st gerorge franchise based in Sydney .since the demise of the NSL it’s been hard to retain juniors in their teens on the coast they have no team to aspire to play for .

        • October 31st 2017 @ 10:31am
          Adam Bagnall said | October 31st 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          Check your facts, Wollongong gets 5 games in 2018. Crowds have hovered around 10,000 for many years now so you can’t blame the Dragons for throwing plenty of games to the Gong. Hopefully next year with more games and better timeslots, crowds will increase.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 11:22pm
        saul said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

        Well said

    • Roar Rookie

      October 30th 2017 @ 5:48am
      Stevo said | October 30th 2017 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      The best article I’ve seen/heard on this topic can be found here:

      https://soundcloud.com/fnr_footballnationradio/fnr_football-football-extra-25-october-2017-archie-fraser

      Archie Fraser on his thoughts about the FFA and the future of the HAL. Essential and refreshing listening.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 7:26am
        Onside said | October 30th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        Very good.The best I have heard.Should be a stand alone article in its own right.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 11:42am
        R King said | October 30th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        He makes a lot of sense. Well worth a listen to.

    • October 30th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Waz said | October 30th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      “… it surely starts to create a discussion about what the future of Australian football looks like” … this debate has been going on for decades. We don’t need more debate we need agreement.

      “It would be ridiculous if Craig Foster’s south expansion side were given a license only for Wollongong Wolves to then gain entry via promotion” …. you miss the point of pro/rel completely: there are no protected geographic areas under pro/rel – so there’s no harm in allowing investors to spend $300m+ on a South Sydney team, the Gong just have to deal with it in just the same way as a second Gong team appeared and started getting promoted up the pyramid. Each club must secure its own fan base and not demand exclusivity over a geographic area and then mistreat the fans within that area.

    • October 30th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Waz said | October 30th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      “… it surely starts to create a discussion about what the future of Australian football looks like” … this debate has been going on for decades. We don’t need more debate we need agreement.

      “It would be ridiculous if Craig Foster’s south expansion side were given a license only for Wollongong Wolves to then gain entry via promotion” …. you miss the point of pro/rel completely: there are no protected geographic areas under pro/rel – so there’s no harm in allowing investors to spend $300m+ on a South Sydney team, the Gong just have to deal with it in just the same way as a second Gong team appeared and started getting promoted up the pyramid. Each club must secure its own fan base and not demand exclusivity over a geographic area and then mistreat the fans within that area.

    • October 30th 2017 @ 8:31am
      chris said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Whilst we need to be diligent in choosing a model that best fits the Australian football landscape, we also have to be mindful of not letting an opportunity pass. The Southern Expansion backers won’t hang around forever.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Gavin R said | October 30th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Your last sentence is absolutely key. It is a big positive for football in general. The infrastructure they’re talking about would be great.

        I lived in wollongong for the last 5 years and i can understand where the author is coming from but i dont necessarily agree. Even if southern expansion is accepted as part of an initial expansion, when the Wolves become part of the new look model, fans will support them over Southern Expansion. There’s a rivalry between Southerland and Wollongong, and I don’t think a lot would jump on the Southern Expansion side anyway. Initially I was against the idea, but moreso because I’d love Wollongong to have a crack earlier.

    • Roar Pro

      October 30th 2017 @ 9:09am
      Josh Barton said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      Adding a second division doesn’t necessarily mean we need to add relegation straight away. The clubs having licenses until 2034 potentially scuppers that anyway (depending on the actual contracts which are not privy to the public).

      Instead, we can use the second division as a proving ground for potential expansion teams – so promotion can be possible but done on a case by case basis. I wrote an article on that on here some time ago, I stick by my idea.

      • October 30th 2017 @ 9:39am
        RBBAnonymous said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Just because the clubs have licences until 2034 doesn’t mean that pro/relegation can’t be added sooner. In fact it is written into the licence agreement that pro/relegation is a possibility. In fact it is a requirement of being part of the AFC, we are supposed to be implementing it.

        I am one of the biggest advocates of pro/rel and it is important we get this right. It is important to have the right teams initially in a 2nd tier but over the long term it doesn’t matter. What you want to get right is the structure and also the mechanisms in place. How do we want it to look like, how will it operate?

        I know the FFA must be tearing their hair out wondering “why does everyone want a 2nd division with pro/relegation”. Its because that is part of football, they unfortunately don’t get that. Its the best way to drive forward and to always improve, to keep the competition fresh and to actually grow the game.

        • Roar Pro

          October 30th 2017 @ 9:53am
          Josh Barton said | October 30th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          I love the idea of promotion/relegation. What I’d like to see is a second division established, and the top division expanded. I reckon you do both at the same time, establish the second division and promote more teams than you relegate for a period of time (slowly), until the top division is sufficiently big (14 teams maybe?) and then proceed like normal from there.

          • October 30th 2017 @ 10:35am
            RBBAnonymous said | October 30th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

            I agree, it would create enormous interest, not only in the A-league but also a 2nd tier. Have a period of promotion in the A-league, get to your set number of 14-16 teams and then have full blown pro/rel.

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