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.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • Roar Rookie

      October 31st 2017 @ 6:26am
      Stevo said | October 31st 2017 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      There will be no relegation/promotion system until at least 2034 when the current A-league licenses expire. Or the clubs agree to an earlier expiration date. This doesn’t preclude the HAL growing and a second division running along side it. Carry on.

      • October 31st 2017 @ 6:50am
        League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 6:50am | ! Report

        Unless FIFA decides to enforce its promotion and relegation statutes. The Aleague licenses are secondary to FIFA should they choose to remove Australia’s exemption.

        (I should have included this in the article. Good pick up.)

        • October 31st 2017 @ 8:50am
          Waz said | October 31st 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

          I don’t know how many times this needs to get mentioned, but the current participation agreements for all A League clubs include provision for the introduction of pro/rel. this has been confirmed by the FFAs very own CEO and gets mentioned at least once every time there is an article like this – how can people not know this by now??

          • October 31st 2017 @ 10:02pm
            saul said | October 31st 2017 @ 10:02pm | ! Report

            I pay attention to you

    • October 31st 2017 @ 6:37am
      Not so super said | October 31st 2017 @ 6:37am | ! Report

      About time we had another expansion or promotion / relegation article

      • October 31st 2017 @ 6:59am
        League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

        Read the article. This proposes something different.

        • October 31st 2017 @ 7:29am
          not so super said | October 31st 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

          everyone has an idea. i would like to hear yours

          • October 31st 2017 @ 7:41am
            League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

            You just read it. Or didn’t:)

            • October 31st 2017 @ 7:57am
              Kangajets said | October 31st 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

              Who funds the newly promoted teams in the A league ,doesn’t it take 8 million a season in turnover .

              just say Edgeworth eagles and Canberra Olympic climb up from the npl

              • October 31st 2017 @ 8:01am
                League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

                Good question. Remove the salary floor, cap and minimum wage. This would allow the promoted NPL team to operate on as low or as high a budget as they can afford.

                Provide them with a travel subsidy similar to the youth or w league to cover the basics. To this they can also add their modest existing state NPL budgets.

                Australian football needs to be deregulated for an open league system to operate efficiently.

    • October 31st 2017 @ 6:44am
      Waz said | October 31st 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

      Your idea is basically to propose building a pyramid from the TOP DOWN. Physics tells you that won’t work lol.

      The HAL is a model based on NRL and AFL, the very essence of a “unique” sporting landscape, and goes against a century of proven models the world over that shows the best model for football is a pyramid system that allows movement from bottom to top based upon ability. Not a suit in Sydney selecting a new exclusive, geographic area for a “new team”.

      A full time/part time second division and eventually a part time/ameteur third division interconnected with the State leagues are essential in forming a natural pathway that clubs, and players, can travel.

      The NPL is no better than non league football in England with most teams playing on parkland not in a stadium, to suggest pro/rel between the HAL and NPL is akin to suggesting the EPL should have pro/rel with the Northern Premier League.

      The establishment of a second division in Australia is more important than pro/rel itself because it is a necessary next building block in the football pyramid. When it works, the revolving door can then be opened – but not before it is working.

      • October 31st 2017 @ 6:58am
        League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

        I disagree. Promotion and relegation is what makes a second tier worth watching in the first place. Without it you are hobbling the idea from the open.

        I’m not suggesting in the article that there should be no second division. Just that the NPL should fill this role as a compromise promotion pathway until the first division has reached its full quota. Then bring in a second division within five to ten years.

        As for NPL clubs mixing it with the Aleague, there is nothing wrong with having a mismatch as an interim measure. They may surprise people. Maybe that’s the fear.

        Remember how Wanderers were a team that never existed before their first season yet were very competitive. NPL clubs would at least have had a promotion campaign to build up from. WSW just had pre season games.

        • October 31st 2017 @ 8:00am
          Kangajets said | October 31st 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

          Wanderes did come in with equal funding and salary cap to the other a league clubs

          Are you suggesting Apia Leichhardt or Edgeworth Eagles Bentleigh greens will get the same funding as wsw did on entry .

          • October 31st 2017 @ 8:07am
            League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

            For the most part, no.

            But in the process of moving to their first tier debut, they will have had a year or more to build their clubs.

            This type of proposal would attract investment to the NPL, from the base. The lure of pro rel would be an incentive to put money into an NPL club.

            But yes this would mean no equalisation, and the removal of salary caps and floors.

            • October 31st 2017 @ 8:56am
              Kangajets said | October 31st 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

              Removing the salary cap will cease my interest in the A league . You may as well hand the title to Sydney or Melbourne City / victory every season .
              Why would anyone bother to follow a club that didn’t have a chance .

              And don’t try to use major European leagues as a reference to non salary cap leagues as the money for elite clubs will never be available in a small market like Australia.

              I’ll all for promotion relagation but the salary cap must be equal for each team per division.

              • October 31st 2017 @ 9:07am
                RBBAnonymous said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

                That’s ridiculous, why do you want every team pegged to the worst teams in the competition. I don’t know why you assume that only Sydney and Melbourne city would run off with the title in a non salary capped league. You do realize that the owners of Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and WSW are also owned by wealthy owners and that there is no reason for any of these teams not to remain competitive. You are assuming too much.

              • October 31st 2017 @ 9:28am
                League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

                A salary cap system is not compatible with pro rel. It’s not efficient at all. You would end up with the AAFC plan and its silly arbitrary cap. Then a big gap. And then the Aleague’s soft cap. Equalisation would be a redundant concept in an open league system.

              • October 31st 2017 @ 10:45am
                RBBAnonymous said | October 31st 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

                I don’t believe in Salary caps. Abolishing a salary cap would increase my interest in the A-league not diminish it.

              • November 2nd 2017 @ 12:59pm
                Deir-ba-zor said | November 2nd 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

                some people want to follow a competition that is actually a competition.

        • October 31st 2017 @ 9:09am
          Waz said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

          The economic shock of moving from HAL to NPL would be too great – the same would occur the other way around as well. It would be madness.

          The expression you have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run is perfectly valid – you want to go from crawling to running because you’re too impatient to walk.

          As an example – Redlands Utd beat Adelaide in the FFA cup and are quite capable of winning NPLQ and going on to win promotion to the HAL in your model.

          And yet they play games at Cleveland Showgrounds, there are no grandstands, there’s one toilet, there’s no turnstiles even, and crowds are less than 100 like most NPL sides. They don’t have any full time staff, there aren’t any medical facilities, no CoE, no full time administrators, no revenue streams other than rego fees, a club house and modest sponsorship.

          There is no way they can win promotion today and compete in the HAL tomorrow (which is literally what would need to happen as the NPL season finishes one week before the HAL season starts).

          Now Redlands are a fine club, I know this through personal contacts at the club, but they ain’t ever going to be ready for the HAL in anything less than a decade. The same is true for the vast majority of NPL clubs.

          The AAFC propose assembling the 12-16 clubs with the best chance of making semi pro football work – exactly what that looks like we wait to see but I presume the 100+ clubs that look like Redlands won’t get in there; then they propose to give it a fancy name and run it for 5 years to let it grow. And crucially they’re going to align it with the HAL season. Then do pro/rel. that makes sense, your approach doesn’t.

          If you want to build a house – start with the foundations and then the walls, the roof is the HAL and the folly of not doing the correct groundwork for 40 years is there to see today. All you’re proposing is to repeat the mistakes of the past.

          Impatience is one of our biggest enemies.

          • October 31st 2017 @ 9:38am
            League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

            Having a lot of clubs join a second division in one heap would be a massive shock to the football ecosystem. It is possible and i’m not against it completely. Just perhaps not as the first step.

            You can gradually add one or two NPL teams to the Aleague every year. It would be lower risk imo. And it would be the cream of the NPL each time. The better resourced would likely rise first.

            Also it would introduce promotion for five or so years before even needing to start relegating. And by that point the existing Aleague teams would have a buffer of all these NPL teams.

            There is always going to be a gulf there for teams when they first are promoted to the first division. I think this will also happen once they promote teams from a second division. Assuming it can survive five years without the lure of pro rel.

            (Apologies for the double post)

            • October 31st 2017 @ 10:57am
              Nick Symonds said | October 31st 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

              “And it would be the cream of the NPL each time.”

              The talent pool of the NPL is divided among a large number of teams. “The cream” of the second division would be much better if they were promoted.

              • October 31st 2017 @ 11:34am
                League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

                Well the second division will be taken from the NPL for the most part. Applications will primarily come from the NPL won’t they?

                Promoting one or two at a time to div 1 may be *creamier* than promoting 12 or however many to the div 2 in one hit.

                But it may be that five years in a second division (with no pro rel) will raise their standards too? There’s a good argument for both imo.

            • October 31st 2017 @ 7:37pm
              Lionheart said | October 31st 2017 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

              You’ve pretty much ignored all that Waz said – there’s got to be a ‘club standard’ set for promotion, in terms of ground and facilities, supporter base, player base and development, finances, access and so on.

              • November 1st 2017 @ 6:40am
                League table speaks said | November 1st 2017 @ 6:40am | ! Report

                Any arbitrary standard should be accessible to as many clubs as possible. I doubt we agree on how high the barrier needs to be. That’s why i skimmed over replying to that part of the post.

        • October 31st 2017 @ 9:26am
          Leonard said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          Very realistic and pragmatic to wonder whether “this second division is able to be a big enough thing that people will still flock to their teams games even if they are in the second division” – especially when crowd stats like these seem to be the A-League’s norm (figures rounded):

          2017/18-Rd 4 crowds: 10100 + 7000 + 11700 + 11500 + 5500 = aggregate of 45800 > average of 9160. Last season’s AFL single game average was 3/4ths of that 45800; four AFL clubs had season ‘Home’ averages of 46700 (Adelaide), 46800 (Collingwood), 50800 (Essendon) and 56000 (Richmond), plus 41100 (Carlton ‘Away’); plus 31400 NRL Brisbane ‘Home’. These are ‘crowds’, 9160 is just a gathering.

          ‘Visions’ of added teams and / or a second tier division are just fantasies on these current A-League crowds. Nonsensical drivel, really, a competition trying to toddle before mastering crawling. Plus there is little actual heartfelt emotional connection between the parks and recreational games played and viewed in winter and the professionals in summer; teenagers stop playing at 15 or 16 and never go near an A-League game for the rest of their lives.

          Remember the NSL? Many of its traditional clubs were passionately rooted in their communities. What happened to them? Ah, yes, they were ethnically cleansed by experts in suits.

          • October 31st 2017 @ 1:51pm
            Redondo said | October 31st 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

            Much of this conversation tangles up two separate things: entertainment versus Football.

            Growing the A-League in its current form relies heavily on entertainment factors i.e. big games, big names. The ‘big’ things attract event-goers, some of whom might then start attending on a more regular basis. The A-League’s core support (the rusted-ons) will probably remain pretty consistent, with crowds for individual teams rising and falling depending on the team’s performances (winning + style). A gradual rise in club memberships over time will tell us whether the ‘big’ things are adding to the rusted-ons by converting event-goers into true A-League fans.

            The entertainment model is all the A-League has in its current form because it’s pretty much disconnected from the rest of Football in Australia. That model is fine as long as it can eventually deliver rewards to the investors. That might take a long time to happen (and might never) so it’s worth looking for other ways to grow the A-League. A div2 model with pro/rel works everywhere else in the world and adds meaning to matches involving teams at the bottom of the table, which may well increase attendances. If non A-League clubs are willing to set up a div2 league at their own expense (initially) then there should be no risk letting them try. The only sticky question will be how and when the pro/rel connection to the A-League gets introduced.

            In terms of Football, Australia already has huge player base feeding a strong 2nd tier – the NPLs (plural). However, the NPLs are not connected in any meaningful way with the A-League. In particular, there’s no promotion or relegation. Pro/rel from the current NPLs is problematic because there is a significant jump in quality (mostly) from the NPLs to the A-League. There are 8 separate NPL competitions with nearly 100 clubs involved. Spreading the non A-League player base across 8 NPLs dilutes the quality of the second tier.

            Ideally for Football in Australia, there would be a hierarchy of leagues with incremental jumps in quality all the way to the top (the A-League). That would allow for better career paths for players, coaches and administrators. It might also help improve the quality of the national team because currently too many of our young players don’t improve because they jump from the NPL to poor overseas leagues or to sit on the bench at better overseas leagues. At least partly, that’s because there is no stepping-stone league from the NPL to the A-League.

            Once we have pro/rel through all levels of Football then everyone in the Football community has a psychological connection to the A-League, even if they don’t support a current A-League team. Your team might be promoted, or, you might just have a chance of promtion, in which case you are automatically drawn to see what your team will be up against.

            If done well, connecting the broader Football base to the A-League can only help grow the A-League. And the growth should be more predictable as well because it won’t depend solely on entertainment factors – it will also be tapping into the large grassroots Footballing community.

            • October 31st 2017 @ 3:40pm
              Waz said | October 31st 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

              That’s a really good post. The football pyramid is concerned with football, not entertainment. Entertainment is hopefully an outcome but not the goal in itself.

              • November 1st 2017 @ 10:01am
                Redondo said | November 1st 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

                That’s a good point Waz. I guess it highlights what many have already said i.e. the FFA should leave the A-League to manage itself and focus on Football.

                At the moment the FFA struggles to balance 2 competing priorities: Football versus entertainment.

            • October 31st 2017 @ 5:19pm
              RBBAnonymous said | October 31st 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

              A terrific post and one I wholeheartedly agree with.

            • November 2nd 2017 @ 1:30pm
              Footoverhand said | November 2nd 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

              Spot on

    • October 31st 2017 @ 9:37am
      League table speaks said | October 31st 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      (Can this comment be deleted, thanks. Have reposted in reply to Waz above.)

      Having a lot of clubs join a second division in one heap would be a massive shock to the football ecosystem. It is possible and i’m not against it completely. Just perhaps not as the first step.

      You can gradually add one or two NPL teams to the Aleague every year. It would be lower risk imo. And it would be the cream of the NPL each time. The better resourced would likely rise first.

      Also it would introduce promotion for five or so years before even needing to start relegating. And by that point the existing Aleague teams would have a buffer of all these NPL teams.

      There is always going to be a gulf there for teams when they first are promoted to the first division. I think this will also happen once they promote teams from a second division. Assuming it can survive five years without the lure of pro rel.

    • October 31st 2017 @ 10:27am
      Redondo said | October 31st 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      Something might happen…

      Gallop’s olive branch on a national second-tier soccer league
      Just days after pouring cold water on proposals to establish a national second tier in Australia, Football Federation Australia chief David Gallop has performed an astonishing U-turn and offered leaders of the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) an olive branch.
      http://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/ffa-chief-david-gallop-offers-olive-branch-over-proposal-for-national-second-tier-20171030-gzbhj3.html?btis

    • October 31st 2017 @ 10:50am
      Square Nostrils said | October 31st 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      Waz above hits the nail on the head regarding NPL clubs, the vast majority just aren’t ready on all counts and the reality is never will be.
      When considering promotion and relegation in the 21st century, you cant just rely on the fact that it worked in established football countries. The times are very different from the Nineteenth century.
      It didn’t just happen then, the system evolved at a time when TV money, sponsorship, billionaire owners didn’t exist, clubs grew organically according to their population and community support, divisions likewise.
      In Australia the A-league was spawned in the 21st century because the NSL, comprised of community based clubs was for a variety of well documented reasons on a downward spiral.
      However unlike say England many of these community clubs were based on support from migrant communities and their offspring, others were district clubs. Some like Perth Glory, and Adelaide United in the last season of the NSL were not.
      What lesson can we learn from the old NSL when considering a viable Second division.
      Migrant community clubs never had enough support to be viable second division clubs, district clubs the same. Only clubs from Cities like Perth or Adelaide and Newcastle or Wollongong on occassions showed enough population support for a viable second division A-League club. One exception to the district club support was the poorly managed Northern Spirit which became a sort of magnet for football fans who couldn’t relate to Marconi, Olympic etc.
      So plonking Redlands, Bentleigh Greens etc in a second division IMO is asking for trouble. Nobody can foresee a poorly run club but football history in Australia can tell you which clubs are likely to be viable and the size of the community on tap is the key.
      There is no rocket science here Townsville, Ipswich, 1 more Brisbane, Gold Coast, 2 more Sydney teams, Wollongong, Canberra 2 more Melbourne, Geelong, 1 more Adelaide, 1 more Perth. South Melbourne are the only other club I would consider.
      This way there is more chance of big investors from within our confederation plonking their hard earned into a club.
      Who would you invest in Green Gully or a second Brisbane club? We already see this sort of potential with the Southern Expansion and Chinese investor plus stadium trifecta.
      21st ,not 19th century thinking is the way to go for a Second division A-League.

      • October 31st 2017 @ 11:05am
        Nemesis said | October 31st 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        “Waz above hits the nail on the head regarding NPL clubs, the vast majority just aren’t ready on all counts and the reality is never will be.”

        I’m sorry but this is not a given.

        A few months before the ALeague kicked off, Melbourne Victory did not have enough money to join the competition. The FFA had to inject funds to allow MV to open its doors on Day 1.

        So, the club that has the biggest annual turnover today, the biggest Membership, the highest average crowds… was not ready a few months before ALeague started.

        By contrast, most NPL club have their own stadium, or the management rights to their own stadium.

        The only difference between NPL clubs this year & future 2nd Division is that clubs will travel interstate 10-13 times (depending on the number of teams) rather than taking a bus to the game.

        Look at this calmly and rationally as you would if asked to analyse the opportunity.

        Besides Travel & Accommodation for 10-13 interstate trips, what are the main additional costs?

        Remember, we are not talking about replicating the ALeague. WE are talking about a 2nd Division that will be semi-professional at the start.

        • October 31st 2017 @ 11:23am
          Waz said | October 31st 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

          “By contrast, most NPL club have their own stadium, or the management rights to their own stadium“ … can you back that up with some statistics?

          I bet if we listed out the number of NPL clubs that have their own stadium it would be something like 20%, or one in five/six.

          The AAFCs argument seems to be to take those that are equipped with stadiums etc, to create the Championship, and grow from there. That seems sensible.

          Direct promotion from the NPL to the HAL can not work for many reasons.

          • October 31st 2017 @ 7:15pm
            Nemesis said | October 31st 2017 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

            “I bet if we listed out the number of NPL clubs that have their own stadium it would be something like 20%, or one in five/six. ”

            In Victoria, I bet it wouldn’t. But, if someone has definitive details I’ll stand corrected.

            Of the 14 NPL Div 1 teams in Victoria in 2017, I would say the following NPL clubs have their own stadium, or management rights for own stadium

            Heidelberg Utd
            SMFC
            Bentleigh Greens
            Green Gully SC
            Oakleigh Cannons
            Hume City FC
            Bulleen Lions
            Port Melbourne Sharks
            Melbourne Knights
            St Albans Saints
            North Geelong Warriors

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