A new system for the Australian football pyramid

MarkfromCroydon Roar Pro

By MarkfromCroydon, MarkfromCroydon is a Roar Pro New author!

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    With all the talk about expansion of the A-League, I thought I’d have a crack at designing a model system for our league.

    I’ve come up with a system, and also a way we can transform to achieve that system.

    I’m pretty happy with the system, but have agonised over the method to transform into that system, and now have some newfound respect for the different players in the current negotiations.

    In this article, I’ll describe the proposed men’s system and my next article will describe the women’s system and how we can achieve the final product.

    It’s not perfect, and I’m sure people will reasonably have their criticisms, but it’s my best effort.

    I have designed a system where we have an influx of capital to the domestic game, a league of fully professional teams, a financially viable league, promotion and relegation, weeks off for all international breaks, but still with lower division play during those breaks, less congestion for ACL teams, football for possibly 42 weeks of the year, at least 35 competitive games for the top teams, and a professional women’s league. This can all be implemented within a few years at minimal additional cost to FFA .

    The men’s system is as follows:

    We have a (semi) closed 24 team league, comprised of 3 hierarchical divisions, with 8 teams in each division, for example Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3. We call it the Australian Premier League (APL).

    Division 1, 2 and 3 each play two separate 14 game home and away championship tournaments per 12 month season (A 14 round Summer Championship and a 14 round Winter Championship).

    There are no finals. The top of the table after 14 rounds is champion of that division for that tournament. A team can therefore win two separate championships in their division during a 12 month season.

    At the end of the 12 month season, we relegate the two teams in their division with the lowest total aggregate points across the two championships. They are replaced by the teams that have won the two championships in the division below.

    If one team wins both championships in the division below, the second promotion spot goes to the team in that division with the aggregate most points across the two championships.

    The ACL spots are given one to each Champion of the top division, and the next ACL spot(s) to the next best aggregate across the two championships.

    We start the Summer Championship of Division 1 one week later than currently (allowing for an October FIFA date the week before the season starts), and allow one weekend off in November for the FIFA Date.

    The 14-week Summer Championship would end on the weekend before Australia Day. The Australia Day weekend can be set as the final for the FFA Cup.

    We include a four-week break between the end of the Summer Championship and the start of the Winter Championship. We then also allow one weekend off in March for the FIFA Date and the Winter Championship would end on the first weekend in June. This means the top division gets 28 matches spread over a 34-week period.

    We can however have football through for 40-42 weeks of the year, as we can start and finish the three divisions at different times. We could start the second or third division 6-8 weeks before the top division, or start and finish either of the divisions a week or two later. We can run professional football from the first weekend of September through to the first weekend of June.

    In future, we can also have a league cup where you have eight groups of three (randomly grouped) where each team plays two matches and the eight group winners progress to the quarter finals, and then four winners to semis and so on.

    Other important matters for the functioning of this system:

    We allow squad sizes of 20-25 players per championship. A squad must include at least 16 Australians, and can have up to 4 foreigners, one of whom must be from an AFC member federation. We allow that players can be contracted for a single 14 match championship.

    We get rid of the salary cap, but retain a salary floor. The salary floor is $1.12 million per season with a requirement that no player may be paid less than $28k per 14 match tournament. This equates to the current $56k minimum yearly salary in the current A-League agreement.

    Clubs must also maintain an amateur youth/reserve team which plays in their local NPL structure, and a youth player may be promoted to the senior team (up to five matches per tournament), provided they receive a match payment of $2k per match.

    There is a transfer window between the two championships. A final squad must be set and advised to the governing body no later than one week before the start of the upcoming championship.

    This system has a lot of advantages.

    It means each team has two separate chances for a trophy per season (three with the FFA Cup!).

    14-round championships are short enough to maintain interest and not have one team win too early leaving lots of ‘dead’ matches at the end of the season.

    Every 12 month season, we get a turnover of 25 per cent of teams in the top and bottom division and 50 per cent in the middle division. In no way can the system be described as stale.

    It also means twice per season, every team has a 1 in 8 chance of winning its division, which gives teams a real chance statistically of winning a trophy and therefore should drive more investment into the lower divisions.

    This system also avoids play during the majority of June, all of July and majority/all of August, which are the coldest and wettest months of the year and traditionally when the World Cup is played.

    Having the four-week break between the two championships means we also can largely avoid the top division overlapping with the Asian Cup if it is played in late January, early February or in any of June through September.

    The four-week break for the top division also allows for some extra media focus on the lower divisions during that time for an added boost to them.

    The four-week break between each championship gives a ‘refresh’ to each division, as you’re not seen as playing the same teams four times per campaign, but rather with two separate championships, you’re playing them only twice per championship.

    Smart clubs would sell only full season memberships (both tournaments) at the start of the season, and then have another sell off of half season memberships just before the start of the second championship to bring in extra revenue and sell unsold seats.

    It ensures lots of content for broadcasters (336 matches in total) and maintains interest for longer through the year (40-42 weeks).  

    One or both of the lower divisions can play through the FIFA dates and the top divisions(s) break, so there is always some football being played every weekend, but most national team players will be in the top division and their club teams will get a break and not suffer because they are missing players.

    If we have a set minimum of Australian players per squad, a minimum of 368 fully professional Australian players playing domestically at any one time (more likely it will be around 460), which should provide a good pool for the national team.

    All clubs get at least 28 league matches. With ACL and FFA Cup, top clubs can get up to 39 competitive matches per season (more if they get out of the ACL group), while you would expect most Division 1 and 2 clubs would get in the order of 30-32 competitive matches. If we add a League Cup, clubs will get between two and five additional matches on top of this again.

    Teams can make money from transfers and strengthen when needed, and good young players can be discovered and brought up earlier.

    Club operating costs are drastically reduced with the low salary floor, but all players are professional and paid at least the same minimum rate as per the current agreement.

    Well, that’s the system for the men – in the next article, I’ll describe a way we can fund it, and how we can also fund a professional women’s league partly through the expansion I’ve described above.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • August 11th 2017 @ 9:17am
      League table speaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      Or just go with a much simpler football pyramid. What is it with wanting to over complicate a winning formula? The football way…

      Australia needs a simple top to bottom league structure. All leagues played on the same calendar year. Late January to November, kick off on Australia Day Jan 26th. (A day to celebrate football coming to Australia with English civilisation.)

      Imagine juniors kicking off the season with their Aleague heroes. It would also force teams to pursue football specific venues. All football leagues in alignment is exactly what the Game here needs.

      Maybe new blood who believe in this can provide some real leadership? Or the visionaries who pushed for the FFA cup will apply this “any team from any where” philosophy to league football?

      If only these folks would head down under…
      http://www.espnfc.com.au/major-league-soccer/story/3164144/mls-rejected-$4-billion-media-rights-deal-that-hinged-on-promotion-and-relegation

    • August 11th 2017 @ 10:03am
      Midfielder said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Mark

      It sounds complex and I am not sure it would suit broadcasters schedules and therefore revenue.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 5:43pm
        MarkfromCroydon said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

        Hi Mid. I’m a big fan of South American football and it’s common there to have 2 separate championships per year/season. This model is basically that. I’ve tried to make it attractive for broadcasters by having lots of content for them, for a longer part of the year.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 10:10am
      R King said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      Well done Mark, you have actually sat down and thought it through, unlike many others. As a ‘mature aged person’, I’m a little stuck in my ways, I like the concept of the old structure, much like League Table Speaks, however unlike him I have an open mind on new Ideas. I like what you’ve done here, I like the fact that we play for a longer period, one of my pet hates is this ‘down time’ in-between seasons.

      If i can play devils advocate here for a sec, I found the format confusing, unsure where the HAL starts and finishes. Most of us have been brought up with a league season running and the winner being crowned ‘Champions’ or ‘Premiers’ [depending on your age] at the end of that season, you appear to have a season split into two parts. [Do I have that right?]

      By not having a finals series i can see many middle age types jumping up and down [it’s the Australian way] I’m not so fussed either way, it’s good for the AFL and NRL and has been OK for the HAL but for many older folk it’s not the way it should be. First past the post, you’re the Champions, end of story.

      I’m looking forward to seeing how you would finance this concept.

      Again well done mate.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 5:53pm
        MarkfromCroydon said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

        Thanks, R. See above re the 2 tournament format. The goal for me was to get a system where there’s football played for 9-10 months of the year. This gives broadcasters a better product and clubs are in the public eye longer and will hopefully generate both more revenue, and with a more even spread of revenue across the 12 month period.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 10:15am
      Nemesis said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      Good to have new ideas, but I found this too complicated.

      One thing that bothers me about 2 Champions each season – what incentive is there for the team that finishes Champions in the 1st half of the Season & has guaranteed promotion?

      However, I do like the idea of the Competition being spit into 2 halves.

      I wrote an article on my idea for 2 half season each year
      http://www.theroar.com.au/2017/02/24/changing-league-calendar-make-us-great-asia/

      Opening Season: Feb, Mar, Apr, May
      Mid Season Break: Jun, Jul [international tournaments, international club friendlies, etc.]
      Closing Season: Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov

      Dec: For 3 weekends before Christmas: Finals or playoff for ACL spots; & Pro/Rel playoffs

      • August 11th 2017 @ 11:01am
        R King said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        When I read your ideas Nem, I thought at the time, ‘This could work’ and i still hold those same opinions.

        I think the time is coming when the FFA [or whoever is running the FFA] will need to sit down and think strongly about the future and how it is going to look. I’m not sure they haven’t but pretty sure by their actions that they haven’t.

        A little off topic I know but ……….My thoughts on Promotion and Relegation are like many people, I don’t want to go back to the old NSL days, where any old club can have a benefactor, put a team together and win promotion, only for that same benefactor to pull up stumps on a whim and that club falls into a heap and disappears. That in my mind is the fear of having a European type P/R system.

        Lets have a system similar to the MLS where by clubs have to prove they’re financially sound before hand, not only on paper but actually show that they are. In other words “show me the money”.

        A ‘Cartel’ as LTS calls it is required right now and into the foreseeable future but that doesn’t mean that the FFA shouldn’t have a plan to incorporate some sort of P/R at some point in time.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 6:05pm
        MarkfromCroydon said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

        Hi Nemesis. See above re the 2 tournaments. It’s reasonably straightforward, but I don’t think I explained it that well. It’s common in South America. I guess a team in Division 2 could ‘tank’ in the second championship if they’d already won the first one, but I think it’d be highly unlikely. Don’t forget, they’d still be playing for a trophy in the second championship. They’d also be getting ready for promotion and their supporters would be expecting them to win both championships.

    • Roar Pro

      August 11th 2017 @ 12:17pm
      albatross said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      You forgot to to include the para about where they should plant the money trees…

    • Roar Guru

      August 11th 2017 @ 12:51pm
      Grobbelaar said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

      Someone wake me up when they get to the end of this.

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