There’s a perfect storm brewing in the world of professional sport and the A-League has been one of the first competitions in Australia to feel the full effect.
My reading of the tea leaves is the burning question of when and under what circumstances do we introduce promotion and relegation?
There are three broad camps: first after 2034 when existing club licenses expire (but even in the current arrangements promotion and relegation is allowed), second after both Division 1 and 2 have stabilised estimated at somewhere between five and ten years and the final group want it within one or two years of the introduction of the second division.
Both the second and third ideas have both merit and issues to overcome. The first will never happen.
The key argument for both the second division creation and then moving on is financial stability. Those warning about waiting for the five to ten years argue correctly we don’t have the infrastructure and facilities. The counter to this from the move now side is no investor will be willing to invest heaps in a Division 2 team if it will take ten to 12 years before they can be promoted into Division 1.
Both sides are right in their arguments and this is a dilemma.
Let’s be fair about this and not take sides, so let’s assume both want what’s good for football. Essentially, we have a difference of opinion or alternative pathways to reach the same goal.
Hand on heart and deep down in my soul I don’t think enough teams have the facilities nor the management structure to become Division 1 teams. This seems to be at the core of the argument for wanting to wait. But then who will invest if they have to wait ten or more years? The circle continues.
The Melbourne Knights in their white paper in response to FFA’s white paper pertaining to the creation of a second division have suggested a solution to the conundrum of the chicken and egg position of when to introduce promotion and relegation.
As I said, the key to the introduction is economic stabilisation of the division and the ability of a second division side to join the first division.
The Knights’ suggestion is brilliant in its simplicity and this single aspect of their white paper is worth lots of discussion. The Knights fully support FFA white paper with a couple of exceptions, and these are capital required, number of foreign players and P&R.
Melbourne’s suggestion for when promotion and relegation are introduced can be best summarised as teams need to meet criteria to be a second and first division side.
The winner of the second division can then be promoted to the first division so long as that team also meets division one criteria.
The logic is beyond simple: you only get promoted if you are essentially financially stable enough to run a Division 1 side.
This creates an incentive not only to win Division 2, but to financially support a club to be ready for a Division 1 place. Further, it delays the promotion of second division until they are ready.
The crust of promotion and relegation is financial stability and the Knights suggestion is to develop detailed criteria for each division and let the market decide from there.
Upon reflection, Melbourne’s suggestion of a two-pronged promotion and relegation system where you not only win Division 2 but also met financial and other division selection criteria is worthy of discussion and it’s a brilliant idea.