This is the best way to expand the A-league

Allen Black Roar Rookie

By Allen Black, Allen Black is a Roar Rookie

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    Australia doesn’t need a second division to have promotion and relegation, at least not in the short term.

    The NPL national playoffs could easily be adapted to be a promotion pathway to the A-League – invite the winners of all capital city and regional NPL competitions to a playoff series to decide who wins promotion to the A-League.

    Setting up the second division straight away may just be too ambitious. The current plan from the AAFC proposes this, with no promotion and relegation for the first five years.

    They have it the wrong way around.

    There should be no second division for the first five years of promotion and relegation. Having the second division with no promotion and relegation would take away the factor that makes it interesting in the first place.

    So what are the alternatives to the AAFC plan?

    Currently, there are nine Australian teams in the A-League. If the aim is to get to 12 or 16 teams, then up to seven NPL clubs could be promoted without having to even think about a second division. Or relegation for that matter.

    Both relegation and the second division could be delayed for at least five years. While still stoking the promotion ambitions of the lower tiers of the game, that are just ripe for new investment and interest.

    Promoting teams straight from the NPL playoffs for the early years would save the initial expense of a national second division. Then once the first division is set, look to introduce the second division. I would suggest within ten years at the most.

    Some NPL teams promoted directly would be outgunned and relegated straight away. This is part and parcel of league football as it’s played around the world.

    Others may just surprise people, just like Western Sydney Wanderers did in its debut A-League season.

    This is the lure of promotion and relegation. The surprises that come along in football which you just would never have expected, like Leicester City winning the Premier League.

    The elephant in the room for any promotion and relegation proposal in Australia is the timing of the season.

    The AAFC proposal seeks to establish a second division to run alongside the A-League from spring through summer and autumn but they have this the wrong way around also.

    Over time, all levels of Australian football should be played at the same time. For a sport that has always been chasing that ‘synergy’ between professional and the grassroots, it makes sense.

    The symbolism of the A-League moving into line with its grassroots would be powerful. But this is a medium-term question.

    The A-League season window could stay as it is until relegation comes into effect, five years or more down the track. You can’t really have promotion and relegation between leagues played at different times of the year.

    The opportunities for football through promotion and relegation are there to be taken. But a lower cost path is worth consideration. Delay the second division for between five and ten years and in the meantime, allow the NPL foundation of Australian football to prove their promotion merits on the pitch.

    Just like the FFA Cup, top-tier league football should be open to any team from anywhere in Australia.