Australia could have a national football second division by 2022 under ambitious plans released on Tuesday.
The Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) has created a partner group involving 30 clubs across the country aimed at creating a new competition below the A-League.
The group includes several former National Soccer League clubs including Marconi Stallions, Melbourne Knights, South Melbourne, Sydney United, Adelaide City and Wollongong Wolves.
The AAFC says the group will now put together a final report on how the competition would work for final approval from the FFA.
Issues to be finalised include whether the competition will be on a national or conference-based format, when in the year it will be held and the hot-button issue of promotion and relegation.
AAFC chairman Nick Galatas said while the competition wouldn’t involve promotion and relegation to and from the A-League immediately, that remained an overall aim.
“AAFC’s view is that we cannot be properly considered as a ‘football nation’ without it and having it in place is our ultimate objective,” Galatas said.
“While promotion and relegation with the A-League will hopefully occur (a) little later, we aim for it to start immediately with the NPL (National Premier Leagues) below.”
The announcement of the plans comes amid a period of high uncertainty within the A-League, which is in the middle of a pay dispute between its clubs and players.
A start date for the 2020-21 campaign is yet to be finalised and a reduced Fox Sports broadcast deal also ends at the end of the next season.
Despite those concerns, Galatas believes the introduction of a second tier would help, not hinder, the game’s financial position.
“Connecting clubs from bottom-to-top and top-to-bottom will help unite the game which will help it achieve its potential,” he said.
“More football at a higher level is good for players, good for coaches, good for supporters, and gives sponsors and broadcasters more opportunity to be engaged in the game from grassroots to elite levels.”