Representatives from NPL clubs around Australia attended a Zoom meeting on August 25 to discuss the next steps required to formally establish a national second division (NSD).
At the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) meeting, club representatives expressed a strong interest in progressing to the next steps of implementation, including forming a NSD Partner Group to provide recommendations to Football Federation Australia (FFA).
“The meeting went extremely well, we are gratified to have had 63 clubs from around Australia attend,” said Nick Galatas, AAFC Chairman.
“I think everyone agrees that NSD is no longer in the realm of ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ as an important means of improving the quality and level of football, but also our credentials and viability as a football nation.”
The NSD Partner Group will consist of at least 25 clubs that have a strong interest in participating in the proposed division. The group will aim to finalise detailed design, modelling, and criteria development which will form the basis of consultation with football’s stakeholder groups and submission to the FFA Board.
“This isn’t about the AAFC going off and forming the division by ourselves, but as we anticipate the division will comprise mainly of member clubs, we are working to assist the FFA by providing insight and recommendations,” Galatas said.
Galatas added that club representatives have been encouraged by recent statements from FFA CEO James Johnson and other board members.
“James has stated since day one that he is a strong supporter of forming a NSD, so we have no concern regarding the FFA’s willingness.”
Although the football community is optimistic and much work has already been done, uncertainty caused by COVID-19 could provide an obstacle moving forward.
“The coronavirus pandemic has been a significant factor in changing the environment of sport generally, but particularly community and professional football,” Galatas said.
“We also now have a Board and senior management group at FFA who more football-savvy are and want to see a NSD succeed. That’s in sharp contrast to the immediate view when we launched our initial discussion paper almost three years ago.”
The clubs heard that a number of matters are still to be finalised with FFA in accordance with its XI Principles document, as well as other stakeholders, including:
- The merits of a national vs conference-based league
- How promotion and relegation will be implemented from tiers below a NSD
- The viability of a NSD for women – a measure supported by AAFC
- How clubs will be selected into the initial season of the NSD
- Summer vs winter season (alignment with the A-League), and
- The appropriate governance and administration of the league.
“A NSD gives all clubs that are interested in it something to aspire to,” Galatas said.
“It will help smaller clubs that are not interested in a NSD taking part in a competition that is more relevant to them at state level. It will help galvanise football fans around the country. It will expand our national footprint. It helps the code put more pressure on all levels of government for funding support. And it gives a potential ‘FFA TV’ – as advocated by The Golden Generation – more quality content that connects all levels of the game.”
Galatas stated that the final report to the FFA Board will be submitted before November 2020, with a view to implementation of the NSD by 2022.