Rushing a second division would be a disaster for football

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    The excitement and demand for new teams to enter Australian football has reached a tipping point, however we must proceed with caution, for there are just as many negatives as positives.

    Fans are loathe to admit it, but the success of football does rely to a degree on the success of other codes.

    Both the AFL and NRL (and, to some extent, rugby) by their very existence take fans and sponsorship away from our game. European, South American and Asian football have never had to compete in a similar market. Football dominates and drains the social, cultural and economic capital of those areas which has naturally led to its dominance over other sports those countries play.

    You want a second division? We need to find the money for it to be funded – and it needs to be guaranteed year on year to be sustainable. Pro or semi-pro, the public and sponsors need to know that teams will be around for them to emotionally invest.

    Much of the push for a second division is coming from the big teams of the old NSL era, or those who have been relatively successful in the respective state competitions. However, bringing in teams like South Melbourne and Sydney United poses a conundrum.

    The teams pushing for inclusion in a second division were the ones that failed at sustaining a national competition through the old NSL. Why would this time be any different? So what value would they bring to the professional game?

    Who would support South Melbourne, for example, that wouldn’t already support the Victory or City? Would there be thousands of fans who support Sydney United and don’t already support the Wanderers?

    How would teams like that survive in a professional league when they failed to thrive in a semi-professional league? Would they really bring any new converts?

    Bentleigh Greens are frequently mentioned as a potential second-division team, as they have won a game against an A-League team in the FFA Cup, but their ‘stadium’ is a few benches built off a suburban paddock. Are these the types of grounds that TV will beam to the entire nation? It would make the second division second rate.

    I have nothing against the clubs I’ve mentioned and any club is allowed to exist at any level that is sustainable, but the A-League is an artificial league, created for us by lawyers and marketers. It was not created from communities clamouring to test themselves in a professional league. It doesn’t have to exist for football to exist or be played in this country.

    A lot of the issue around funding could be solved if the second division was televised, with guaranteed funding for the teams. Stadium sharing with rugby league clubs with reduced pricing could fill stadiums, making it look good for TV advertisers.

    Whatever happens, I just hope it isn’t rushed.

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    The Crowd Says (69)

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 4:02am
      Graham said | September 22nd 2017 @ 4:02am | ! Report

      The second division will be second rate

      Thats why it will be a…..2nd division!

      It provides more development pathways for 18-21 year olds who need game time against grown men and full time training at that crucial stage of their development. It bridges the gap between the npl and the a league

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 8:24am
        j,binnie said | September 22nd 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        Graham – You mention the “gap” between the NPL and the HAL and express the “hope” that it may be maintained as a pathway for young local players.
        However it has to also be recognised that there is a “gap” in the HAL itself, with every team apparently hell bent in procuring allowable talent from overseas.and this process has actually captured the efforts of our sports media who love to extol the apparent qualities that new signings from across the water will bring to our major competition.
        If they do, the publicity is almost never ending,but if the new arrivals fail to shine,they are soon discarded and their places filled with the next “invasion”. And so it goes on.
        That is a fact of life in the HAL and a quick perusal of squads will highlight this state of affairs in our supposed “talent pathway”..
        Lets pose the question. Are the HAL teams doing enough to “bridge” that gap you talk about?.
        There are a few positive examples of course but still that search for elusive “star material” somewhere overseas goes on unabated.Can the HAL afford to stop,or at least curtail this practice?
        Your thoughts would be appreciated. Cheers jb.

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 7:38pm
        Party Pooper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

        Why can’t we just have what we have now?

        Sure it is romantic to have a British style pyramid of leagues but England is half the size of Victoria. You can get around the country in a morning by train, bus or car. You can walk to a lot of club grounds in London or Manchester to give you an idea of their proximity to each other.

        We have designed a geographical representation league above the before tried and failed ethnic social club model.

        The NSL was obviously a complete failure in its early years but because of the bloody mindedness of its loyal fans and the constant churn of clubs coming and going.

        Which tv company is going to pay for a 2nd league when they can barely cover wages of what we have now. Nine clubs in Australia.

        One more thing, the successful European clubs never go below half way down the table. Only the bottom clubs come and go.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 5:39am
      Waz said | September 22nd 2017 @ 5:39am | ! Report

      Football has to shake off the type of thinking that other codes have – football is unique in modern sport in that it traditionally has a pyramid system that allows clubs and players to find their level through ability not allocation from some administrator in an office somewhere in Sydney. This premise is FIFAs greatest achievement imo.

      It’s obvious that we have the players with the ability to form a national second division; so we should get on and form it as soon as possible. And forget what it looks like on tv or what stadiums they play in, just base entry on ability – form it out of the best clubs and allow p/r to do the rest.

      You’ll be surprised at the results.

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 9:19am
        northerner said | September 22nd 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Waz – I don’t entirely agree with you on this. It’s true that football is (I think) unique in providing a pyramid system for clubs to find their own level, but it is certainly not unique in providing development pathways for players. Most major sports have a development pathway that achieves the same thing by other means – MLB has AA and AAA “farm teams” for borderline and rising players; the NHL has minor league hockey and farm clubs in the AHL; US colleges develop players for the NFL and NBA; and here in Aus the state Aussie Rules competitions and the NRC in Rugby do something similar. So, with or without promo/relegation, players find their own level.

        Çlubs are another matter. When it comes to clubs finding their own level – lets face it, money matters. Whether there’s enough money out there to support a promo/relegation system in Aus as opposed to a franchise system is an open question in my mind. And when I say open, I mean open – I don’t know the answer. The figures I’ve seen from the player’s association talk about $5 million per club for the second tier, while the AAFC thinks a lower sum would be sufficient. That’s still a fair chunk of change. Is it there?

        • Roar Rookie

          September 22nd 2017 @ 4:32pm
          Stevo said | September 22nd 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

          Absolutely correct and agree with you. The AFL provides development pathways to the top for players – clubs in the various states do not clamour and make the same noise for promotion that occurs in our game. In fact the peak AFL competition is closed to all teams except those currently in it and there is not a hint of promotion/relegation because they know it will dilute the peak competition re sponsorship, attendance, etc. The way forward for us is to expand from 10 teams to say 14. Promotion to the HAL could be a pathway for some of the best run and supported NPL teams. When you’ve bedded down 14 teams then look to 18 or 20. Grow the HAL first, look at rules around player transfers between HAL and NP and compensation to reward the NPL teams, make sure the FFA Cup grows, return money to grass roots to make playing football cheaper for kids, looks at clubs owning stadiums where possible, etc.

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 6:56pm
            Nemesis said | September 22nd 2017 @ 6:56pm | ! Report

            “look to 18 or 20 teams”

            Are you being serious, or having a laugh?

            Assuming a 34-38 match season (18 teams, or 20 teams) after about the midpoint of the season, it will be obvious there that 50% of teams that cannot win the title, nor can they finish in the ACL spots.

            So, what possible incentive would there be for them to keep playing competitively?

            If there is no threat of relegation, I don’t want more than 10-12 teams. At least with 10-12 teams, every team has some chance of an ACL spot via the knock out finals.

        • September 22nd 2017 @ 6:19pm
          Waz said | September 22nd 2017 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

          @ northerner

          I didn’t though say football was unique in providing development pathways, most if not all sports do that.

          The pyramid system is somewhat unique (other codes do do it but not necessarily with the same relish football does it) in that it is enshrined in FIFAs constitution that players and clubs should be allowed to find their natural level based solely on ability. That’s clubs as well as players, which is important.

          There are several examples in Europe where clubs were formed recently and through promotion are now playing st a high level. FIFA like that and so do traditional football fans.

          Whether full p/r work in Australia is an open question and one for another day. But expansion of the HAL and p/r are not the same debate as a national second division and introducing them into this debate confuses things.

          Creating a second division, even with a mix of semi and pro players, would allow the best state clubs and players to find a new level. We should do that if we can.

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 7:41pm
            northerner said | September 22nd 2017 @ 7:41pm | ! Report

            “I didn’t though say football was unique in providing development pathways” Actually, that is what you said. Or, what I understood you to say.

            “Football is unique in modern sport in that it traditionally has a pyramid system that allows clubs and players to find their level”. That’s what I disagreed with: there’s nothing unique about a pyramid system for players.

            I agree that the issue of a second division is separate (though related) to the issue of promotion/relegation. I’m personally not convinced that semi pro teams can operate within a national competition in a country as big as this one, and as scarcely populated, and still keep their financial heads above water, but that’s the model the AAFC is working on, and I’m interested in what they produce. If it makes fiscal sense, absolutely, go for it. If it doesn’t, back to the drawing board. I don’t think this is an occasion for a “Hail Mary” pass and hoping it all works out: the numbers have to be there.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 7:08am
      Lesterlike said | September 22nd 2017 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      No keeping the status quo with this AFL lite mentality would be a disaster. Clubs that have pumped out Socceroos like South Melbourne and Knights are wasting away in a system that does not encourage ambition or quality player development and we need an actual football system that allows them to find their natural level and contribute to the football community to the best of their abilities.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 8:28am
      Chopper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      The expansion of the A League should be the first priority of the sport and immediately after must be the establishment of the second division. This may well be the survival of the fittest in that some clubs may not make the huge leap and fail in an economic mire. Just as start up small businesses in Australia have a fall over rate so will some football clubs but the game thrives on winners and losers.
      Once the second division has settled down then promotion and relegation can be introduced.

    • Roar Guru

      September 22nd 2017 @ 8:56am
      Grobbelaar said | September 22nd 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      It’s strange that the author would use South Melbourne as an example of why a 2nd division with full P&R would be a disaster. If anything, South Melbourne is an example of why it would be a great success.

      If you sit down and work it out, the economics of a 2nd division are sound.

      We would be looking at NSL type attendances, which is more than adequate for the 2nd division, about 20% of A-League attendances, or approx. 2,500 spectators per game.

      Salary cap would be about 20% of the A-League, or approx. $600,000 per club.

      Average salaries would be about 20% of the A-League, or approx. $30,000.

      Ratings would be about 20% of the A-League, or approx. 12,000 per game.

      TV rights would be about 20% of the A-League, or approx. $10 mill per annum (enough to cover the salary cap of 12 clubs plus have plenty left over to cover costs).

      It’s certainly doable.

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:27am
        Nemesis said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Well done, Grobbelaar. I think those figures are very reasonable for back-of-envelope analysis.

        People seem to think a 2nd Division will be a replica of the 1st Division Aleague. It will not. Look around the world at 2nd Division.

        Look at the crowd numbers compared to 1st divisions.
        Look at the salaries compared to 1st Divisions.

        Your figures are very reasonable.

        In England, the EPL average salary is around 3x that of the 2nd Division; the 2nd Division is about 5x that of the 3rd Division.

        I see no reason why a National 2nd Division average salary should be more than 20-33% that of the ALeague.

        • September 22nd 2017 @ 1:03pm
          Waz said | September 22nd 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

          Agree that’s a great post; and there’s multiple ways it could be funded in addition to that including:

          * 10% of HAL revenues could be diverted to the D2 = $7.5m

          * A levy on the 620,000 registered participants = $6.2m

          That would raise $13.7m or $1.37m/club on top of everything Grobellar mentions. Now I’m not saying that could or should happen but there are ways to fund this if it’s thought through – in fact, money is probably the least of all the worries if it’s done properly.

      • September 23rd 2017 @ 4:52am
        Matt said | September 23rd 2017 @ 4:52am | ! Report

        I agree its completely feasible. The only main issues are,

        1.
        If a current A-League team gets relegated certain financial help may be needed to try and help them.
        2.
        Id want to address the larger number of Div 2 players who may never make the A-League and as a result enforce that every division 2 player under 23 yrs old must study part time.
        3.
        Midweek games for the most part so viewers can watch the games without impacting on A-League viewer numbers.
        Id actually want Fox Sports to implement a Football only channel.
        4.
        For the first 4 years of the 2nd division, the founding A-League 10 teams cant be relegated but 2 are promoted from the 2nd division, they only stay in the A-League if they avoid the bottom 2 spots in the league, if they fall in one of those spots they go back down and another team or 2 come up.
        If they avoid the bottom 2 during those years they stay up and no 2nd Division team gets promoted. (Or if feeling generous 2 more get promoted and there are now four 2nd div teams in the A-League and the above rules of 2 going down still apply)
        5.
        Promoted teams get 1 years salary cap help from FFA
        6. Marquee signings for promoted teams must have a relegation release clause included in the contract.

        Thats all i can think of for now.

        • September 23rd 2017 @ 8:20am
          Nemesis said | September 23rd 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

          Some good points, Matt that actually adds to this discussion; rather than the usual negativity from some.

          However, many of your points relate to Promotion/Relegation, which is a completely separate discussion to a National 2nd Division.

          Right now, the AAFC is just focused on creating a National 2nd Division. They want to lift the standard for the 2nd Tier of football in Australia. And, it makes sense. If we put the 14 strongest teams from the NPL across Australia in one league & have them competing against each other, the standard of the NPL will lift dramatically.

          In relation to your points:

          1) In the EPL, teams that are relegated continue to receive a small portion of the TV money for 2 more seasons (3 seasons if they were in the EPL for more than 1 season before being relegated)

          2) If the players are semi-pro, they’ll already be studying, or working.

          3) Midweek matches are a very useful concept. Never thought of that. The only problem I see would be the players would then have to be full-time professional

          4) Agree

          5) I hope both ALeague & Aleague Div 2 are independent of don’t get any help from FFA

          6) Pretty sure all professional contracts in Pro/Rel competitions would contain this clause. I can’t imagine Leo Messi playing 2nd Division Spain if Barcelona were to be relegated.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 9:05am
      j,binnie said | September 22nd 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      It is nice to speculate and imagine what could be, but one thing constantly raises it’s head and that is —–Money.
      It costs a lot of money to run a professional football team and it is the sources of that money that brings in to focus what the history of our game tells us.
      Our first great leap forward was the initial formation of a country wide football competition ,the National Soccer League. For the first few years this competition ,minus what anyone could describe as professional publicity,struggled along ,most clubs being run under a “committee system ” that had been in vogue since the days of voluntary contributions from interested parties.
      In the early years the most successful team in the comp was Hakoah/Eastern Suburbs/Sydney City. a great football team with apparently unlimited backing from the Hakoah Social Club out at Bondi.This was not to last of course,too many influential business men behind the scenes and suddenly after 8 season the best football team in the country disappeared from the comp. not withdrawn for a slight suffered by their then chairman Frank Lowy but by a directive from the parent club at Bondi.
      The die was cast but, as was usual for the time, ignored by the decision makers at the time the ASF.
      Clubs started to emerge into the NSL, clubs backed by the efforts and money generated by ethic groups formed from the hordes of migrants who had poured into the country.
      There are almost countless examples of this type of emergence going on ,and failing , as greater demands were put upon Social Club Committees for more and more money. and whose committee members were just as likely to say “no more”..
      When the HAL was formed from the ashes of what had been the NSL, it was apparent to most thinkers in the game that the format required for entry eradicated the type of “existence” that had gone before,hence the much maligned “franchise system of ownership”.
      So we come back to “Money”- or should it be said ,”lack of that commodity”;
      What social club committee that has worked hard for years to establish their assets is going to be convinced to speculate 5 or 10 million of their hard earned dollars on a venture that offers 30 or 40 new employees but offers no guarantees of success
      Whilst there may be one or two identities from those NSL days willing to “give it a go”, when one remembers the “failure rate” in the NSL it is understandable that there are long term football identities who don’t want a bar of playing in the HAL as it is set up
      With this in mind great care has to be taken that any gains made in the last 12 years are not “white-anted” by a step back in time. Cheers jb. .

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:21am
        pacman said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Great post jb. Agree wholeheartedly. Many posters quote huge money figures without suggesting where these vast sums will come from.

        The issue of start-up costs needs to be addressed and solved before even half serious consideration can be given to a second division.

        In the USA, a land similar in size to our land (+/- 5%), the higher level nationwide football competitions are split into conferences, usually east and west. I am yet to see this concept discussed by proponents of an Australian second division. The cost benefits are glaringly obvious.

        • September 22nd 2017 @ 12:44pm
          j,binnie said | September 22nd 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          Pacman- Once again we can learn from recent history. In season’s 1985 and 1986 a two conference system ,North and South,(which in effect meant Sydney and Melbourne) was mooted and put into effect by the then top football organisation,the Australian Soccer Federation.
          Each conference was made up of 12 teams and the move was to prove an unmitigated financial disaster with clubs going broke and being replaced by other willing participants,very few of who went on to create permanent places in the country’s football identity.
          Crowds were all over the ship. Due to the number of what could be called “derby games” between clubs from the same cities there were a few 5 figure crowds(10,000+) but a lot more 3 figure crowds (under 1000).
          By 1987 the league reformed under a 1 league,13 club format ,5 from Sydney,7 from Melbourne and 1 from Adelaide.with what could have been described as “provincial clubs” all gone.

          If you are interested, a complete record of teams,games played,, and crowds attracted, is available on the website –
          Australian National Soccer League – Ozsports. Cheers jb.

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 6:48pm
            pacman said | September 22nd 2017 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

            Thanks jb. From time to time I visit the site you mention.

            I am not familiar with the era you refer to, but a little research reveals that the ASF, in its wisdom, decided to increase the top tier by 50% (from 16 to 24 teams), and split the tier into two conferences, North & South. As you mention, the Northern Conference was Sydney, together with Newcastle, Wollongong and Canberra. The Southern Conference consisted of eight teams from Melbourne, two from Adelaide, and wait for it, although I know you are aware, two from Brisbane!

            This was a recipe for disaster. Expand by 50%? Place the two northernmost clubs in the Southern Conference? What on earth was the medication the authors of such a bizarre plan were taking?

            As you so rightly state,”Once again we can learn from recent history.”. I believe this ludicrous plan failed on two counts, namely an inordinate expansion programme, and the failure to comprehend Conference logistics.

            Of course, all this occurred over 30 years ago. Many regional centres have experienced considerable growth in the intervening years. so Wollongong and Canberra would possibly meet the criteria required to engage in top tier football. The former because of its football history, and the latter? Not sure. Sometimes I think Canberra is similar to Gold Coast – plenty of good players, few if any of whom moved to those locations for the sole purpose of playing football. For them, football is secondary.

            As far as Conferences are concerned, a Northern Conference would consist of Queensland and NSW (with the exception of the southern areas such as the Riverina and Murray River centres. These would join a Southern Conference, along with teams from Victoria, SA, WA & Tas.

            A League is not Conference ready, but a second division? As I stated in my earlier post, “The cost benefits are glaringly obvious.”.

            Cheers.

            • September 23rd 2017 @ 8:58am
              j,binnie said | September 23rd 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

              pacman – It should never be forgotten, or ignored.
              In 1977 it cost $50,000 to enter the NSL.
              In 2004 it cost $5 millions to enter the HAL.
              That not so small discrepancy would have “blocked the way” for a lot of the existing former NSL clubs.

              In this column the “theme” goes on to discuss costs and how they are arrived at.

              Upon discussion with a friend “close to the coalface” the following figures were cited.
              Today, when the Socceroos travel to local traIning camps here in Oz, there are 23 players involved and about 30 “ancillary ‘ staff.
              Explain that anomaly away to any qualified accountant. Cheers jb.

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