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Former South Melbourne FC president weighs-in on second division

Former South Melbourne FC President George Vasilopoulos has provided his insights into the National Second Division, stating he believes many issues which prevented its formation in the past still exist.

But despite the financial and geographic barriers, Vasilopoulos remains optimistic that the inception of a promotion/relegation system could reignite Australian football.

“People have been wanting to do it since the National Soccer League was established in 1977. Can you imagine how exciting it would be? People would fill up stadiums to see their team challenge for promotion,” he said.

“It would give football fans a new lease on life. There would be more sponsorship, more members, and more support.”

Reenergising the A-League is a current priority for the game’s leading administrators. With average crowd numbers stagnating over recent seasons despite growing participation, Australian football is at somewhat of a crossroads.

“The A-League started very well. I was so pleased to see large crowds attending the games but over time hit a bit of a downturn,” Vasilopoulos said.

“It takes time to build things and I am keen to see how it will play out, but recently crowds have gone down. This naturally leads to a reduction in sponsorship and money. Administrators have to work harder to find dollars which creates pressure.”

As an administrator for almost 30 years, including a 13-year period as President of South Melbourne FC from 1989-2002, Vasilopoulos attended many meetings to brainstorm a second division’s viability.

Unfortunately, the league never materialised, and he believes many of the issues that administrators faced then are still obstacles today.

“The second division has always been discussed. It would be a huge benefit for the sport, but the issues today are the same – there is a tyranny of distance in Australia and the key question remains, how will it all be funded?” he added.

“We could never come up with a legitimate strategy to make it work. Flying teams and their staff regularly over long distances is extremely expensive, not to mention accommodation and all of the other costs associated with it.”

The feasibility of a National Second Division may lie in modern solutions, with a conference style system touted to minimise travel proving a popular idea.

“Conferences with the winners playing off in a tournament is a brilliant idea. That would generate interest for fans and viewers who would know there is a massive prize at the end of it all,” Vasilopoulos said.

“You see how people react to knockout football with the popularity of the FFA Cup. There’s a lot of interest in seeing lower league clubs challenge for the cup but having a prize like promotion at the end of it would take it to another level.”

With a conference system a legitimate option to solve travel concerns, administrators are beginning to piece together a realistic model for the division. Although much work remains to be done, the formation of the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) Championship Partner Group will only bolster funding and support, with the group’s 35 member clubs aiming to launch the second-tier in 2022.

“Having these strong, historic clubs like Marconi, Sydney Olympic, South Melbourne, Heidelberg and so on supporting the division will only help to get it off the ground. Generating that interest in the grassroots is important but if these clubs want to go up, then someone must come down and creating a system that involves relegation may be a real challenge,” Vasilopoulos said.

“Relegation may make it impossible financially. There are a wealthy people behind these clubs who contribute a lot of funding. Would a person want to put money into a club, millions of dollars if they are at risk of being relegated?”

“It’s difficult because there is definitely merit to a second division with promotion and relegation, but clubs would need financial support.”

Vasilopoulos added that a short-term solution could involve promotion without relegation, at least in the interim to top up the league and build momentum before eventually bringing in relegation down the track once the system has matured.

“From this season there will be 12 teams in the A-League. If they want to bring in a system slowly, they could have promotion playoffs for the first few years without team’s in the top league facing relegation,” he said.

“In the old National Soccer League there were 14 teams. We could create a system where for the first few years the winning second division team gets promoted and builds the league’s numbers up. This would give FFA time to create a sustainable system over time.”

For more information on the Championship Partner Group, visit here.

 

Sports Flick acquire Austrian Bundesliga TV rights deal

Australian sports streaming service Sports Flick has secured an exclusive TV rights deal to broadcast Austria’s Tipico Bundesliga in Australia.

Australian sports streaming service Sports Flick has secured an exclusive TV rights deal to broadcast Austria’s Tipico Bundesliga in Australia.

The Sydney-based streaming service will start broadcasting the Austrian Bundesliga this weekend – a multi-year agreement allows for one marquee match to be shown per round for the three remaining rounds of the 2020/21 season.

Austrian Bundesliga’s Championship Round and the 2021/22 season are also incorporated in the rights deal, which was brokered with the official global media rights distribution partner for the league, Sportradar.

“Sports Flick has a goal to become the number one location for football in Australia,” Sports Flick General Manager Michael Turner said.

“With football being Australia’s number one grassroots participation sport, fans are craving more football content from across the world. One of our goals is to give fans the chance to watch different competitions and engage with the world’s game.”

Sports Flick said that the Austrian Tipico Bundesliga rights deal was their first major acquisition in European Football.

“Our Austrian Tipico Bundesliga coverage provides Australians a unique opportunity to watch more European Football and watch some of the up-and-coming football stars playing in the Austrian top flight,” Sports Flick CEO Dylan Azzopardi said.

In the coming weeks, Sports Flick are expected to make further announcements regarding rights deals.

Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Sports Flick had secured the exclusive rights to broadcast the UEFA Champions League in Australia – for around $60 million over three years.

Optus Sport currently holds the rights to the UEFA Champions League on a three-year deal that expires after the 2020/21 season.

The Austrian Bundesliga broadcast deal follows Sports Flick announcement last Thursday, of an exclusive TV rights deal to broadcast South Korea’s K-League 1.

Under a multi-year agreement, the rights deal saw Sports Flick start broadcasting K-League matches from February 27.

The K-League TV rights deal was also brokered with Sportradar.

Alongside the Austrian Bundesliga and K-League, the streaming service also has the rights to the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Liga Primera (Nicaraguan football top division) and the Arabian Gulf League.

 

Football Queensland begin Female Football Week celebrations

Football Queensland have begun their state-wide celebration of Female Football Week, commemorating the game’s proud past, present and future.

The annual celebrations have heightened significance this year, in what is the centenary season of women’s football in Queensland.

“This year’s Female Football Week is a great opportunity to recognise and reflect on the extremely important role of women and girls in football’s past, present and especially its future,” FQ President Ben Richardson said.

“The incredible digital history museum FQ launched last week gives us all insights into the remarkable story of the women’s game here in Queensland, which kicked off with the momentous first public match at the Gabba on 24 September 1921.

“We are proud to bring greater attention to the 100-year anniversary by widely releasing our centenary season logo, which is another example of FQ’s commitment to embracing the game’s history and diversity.”

The governing body will release a series of videos this week showcasing the stories of past, present and future Queensland and Australian footballing heroes.

The state’s first Matildas captain, Sue Monteath, will be featured in the opening video.

Football Queensland will also shine a light on several ‘Women’s Football Champions’ who have contributed to the game and helped provide girls with opportunities at a grassroots level.

“This initiative gets to the core of what Female Football Week is all about by recognising those who share FQ’s passion for delivering inclusive, high-quality participation opportunities,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

“With the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 approaching, it is more important than ever that the community unites behind FQ’s message that women and girls are the future.

“We made that clear in the Women and Girls Strategy 2021-2023 that was presented to political, sporting and football leaders at Parliament House on Tuesday.

“FQ is driving progress towards unlocking Queensland’s FIFA Women’s Cup 2023 legacy and Female Football Week continues to make a strong contribution to that journey.”

Female Football Week will conclude on the 8th of March.

Football NSW introduce Winter Futsal League for 2021

Football NSW have announced they will introduce a new Winter Futsal League for both men and women this season.

The new competition is set to kick off in late March and will run for 12 weeks, with a finals series to conclude the season.

All matches will be played at Valentine Sports Park in Sydney, with six teams already registered to compete in the league.

Football NSW’s Futsal Manager Jordan Guerreiro was excited about the introduction of the new elite competition, which will improve the quality of the small-sided game in the state.

“This is a fantastic opportunity in which our Futsal Players and our Futsal Clubs can now get involved all year round. The Winter Futsal competition is designed to create a middle ground between Grassroots Futsal and Elite Futsal in which Football NSW and the clubs can engage our Futsal players to have a quality competition,” he said.

“The Winter Futsal League I believe is an important beginning stage in the development of Futsal to be perceived as a sport that is played by our community all year round. This initiative also opens up an opportunity for these clubs involved to improve their club’s engagement with their players.

“As the State Governing Body of Futsal, we want to continue to improve our service of the game and continue to build our Futsal framework to develop a community of players. Football NSW would like to create a sustainable league and continue to develop and grow this competition to engage with more clubs to get involved.”

The six teams set to feature in the league are listed below.

  • Eastern Suburbs Hakoah
  • Inner West Magic
  • Mountain Majik
  • Phoenix Futsal
  • Sydney Futsal
  • West City Crusaders

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