Second division dream still alive

The A-League may be independent, but that won’t get in the way of the big plans for a second division with promotion and relegation.

While it may seem like a barrier, Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) chairman Nick Galatas is an optimist.

He has recently spoken about how these changes should be considered, despite the A-League being independent. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be put on the table, with a revamp for Australian soccer not outside the realms of possibility.\

“We have no reason to believe that the A-League owners will do anything other than support what we’re trying to do with a national second division,” Galatas said.

“We think it will help the whole game. It will create great excitement throughout the country when it’s formed.

“We see what the A-League is doing and we see that they are trying to raise the profile of their competition and of football and we believe that what we are doing will assist that and help to expand the game throughout Australia.

“We see a national second division as a necessary condition for promotion and relegation because we need to fill the gap that currently exists between the A-League and NPL.”

Having been involved in the game during the transition from the old National Soccer League to the A-League, Galatas believes he has a new model will help positively shape the future of soccer.

“No doubt many of our constituents will feel there was a time when they were left behind as the focus shifted on the professional side of the game at A-League level at the exclusion of others,” he said.

“But I’m seeing a lot of goodwill and I think everyone is starting to realise that the game as a whole benefit when everyone is involved and invested.

“Whether you’re an A-League club or a team below that with potential to grow and reach its potential, why shouldn’t that be welcomed?”

Since the AAFC has been formed, it’s made massive inroads for the potential of introducing a national second division, which came to light in a meeting between Victorian clubs.

“We always thought that the clubs would bind together because they have a common interest and the environment they were operating in has been difficult for them,” he said.

“I guess I’m pleasantly surprised with the level of commitment over a long period between so many different clubs from all across Australia.

“There are very, very different types of clubs across Australia and the fact that we’ve been able to keep everyone together, informed and moving in the same direction has been great.

“We were new at the time the old board’s tenure was coming to an end.

“I guess we weren’t on the landscape and we were a new organisation and there were a lot of pressures on that board at that time, so perhaps we were last on their mind.

“But we were still invited by them to all the critical meetings in which FIFA was involved so ultimately they accepted us and collaborated with us even before the new board was elected.

“We’re working very well with the new board as well and they’ve been very accepting of us and in particular Chris Nikou and Remo Nogarotto, which has been very encouraging.”

Galatas has had talks with the FFA board, the PFA and other related stakeholders, with the plan being a new second division should come into effect by the 2021-22 season.

“When we started we really sought to have a voice and be recognised on the congress, which we’ve made progress on,” he said.

“That’s obviously opened up the discussions around a second division and conducting and completing a national review of the NPL, so we’ve worked through some of the big-ticket items, I guess now the focus is on doing what we’re here to do and work with our club members and the issues they face from state to state.

“We’re here to make sure the NPL clubs are properly represented at every level, including at the FFA level and making sure their concerns are addressed through the FFA and the state federations.

“In Victoria, we’ve had a lot to do with the new NPL structure there, we’ve liaised with our clubs to liaise with Football Victoria to ensure it’s implemented as smoothly as possible.

“We’re getting involved in state-based issues and each director has an eye on their state.

“We believe a national second division will help in this area because it will help develop stronger clubs and unleash new investment in the game at this level.

“It will encourage greater participation and supporters which will lead to better facilities.

“As we develop as an organisation we’ve been able to put people in place who assist clubs in providing know-how and IP and general assistance we share amongst our clubs to help show them how to access grants and investment from local, state and federal government, the private sector as well as sporting trusts.

“It’s so important to our game because it’s lasting and can lead to exponential growth.”

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Liam Watson is the Co-Founder & Publisher of Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Football Australia near $200m TV deal with Network Ten

Football Australia is currently in the final stages of negotiations to secure a record-breaking $200 million TV deal with Network Ten that will extend the current broadcast deal for four more years.

Reported by The Australian, the deal will be worth double the current $100 million agreement.

The deal will include broadcast rights to the 2026 Asian Cup women’s tournament that Australia will host, the 2027 Women’s World Cup in Brazil as well as most Socceroos and Matildas games. Football Australia has also bought the rights to some junior World Cup tournaments in order to package them in the new TV contract.

There is no bigger indication of the lasting impact the Matildas have made since the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup concluded in August of last year.

Channel Seven reported that for the Semi Final against England last year, the broadcast reached staggering 11.15 million people nationally with an average audience of 7.13 million, making it the most watched TV program since the OzTAM measurement started in 2001.

Not to mention the fact that the Matildas have sold out stadiums 14 times in a row, including an incredible 76,798 attendance at Monday’s Olympic send-off friendly against China in the cold weather.

Football Australia Chief executive James Johnson didn’t publicly discuss the numbers in the deal but commented on the TV package itself and how the FA no longer relies on broadcast deals to survive.

“What it does ­strategically is it creates a one-stop shop for Matildas and Socceroos content over the next four-year cycle, and it is a creative way to come up with a new package broadcast deal,” he said via press release.

“If you go back four or five years, we were very dependent on broadcast.

“But today you’ve got strong sponsorship and other revenue streams, like merchandise, the broadcasting for national teams only, and also ticketing revenue.

“We have more broadcast revenue that will pick up in (financial year 2025) and there’s also new sponsorship deals like Milo, Coles and the new Nike deal that we signed at the back end of last year.”

This deal is extremely positive for football fans, normalising free-to-air TV in an era where Australian’s access to free sport is dwindling.

The impact of the Matildas and Socceroos producing good results in their respective World Cup’s has given the FA a platform to surge growth at grassroots level and this record-breaking TV deal is the biggest indicator that the future is heading in the right direction.

FIFA trialling Video Support challenge technology

Football Video Support (VS) has been introduced by FIFA as another means of technology to review decisions.

VS is a video review system by FIFA that is the answer to member associations that cannot implement the video-assistant-referee (VAR) system because their human and financial resources are limited and very few cameras are in use in their competitions.

There are cameras set up around the pitch, either human-operated or automated that are used by referees to make decisions after a coach reviews the play.

FIFA are currently trialling VS with a goal to explore new and existing technologies to positively impact the game, especially in order to help referees to make correct decisions, while ensuring that their potential use is cost-effective, beneficial and practical across the global football community.

How does VS work?

  1. Football Video Support (VS) is a video review system introduced by FIFA as a solution for member associations that are unable to implement the video assistant referee (VAR) system.
    a. Goal/no goal
    b. Penalty/no penalty
    c. Direct red cards (not second cautions)
    d. Mistaken identity (when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player of the offending team)
  2. VS can be utilized only after the referee has made a decision (including waving play on as a decision) and a team has subsequently requested a review.
  3. Only the team’s head coach (or, in their absence, the senior team official in the technical area) can request a review. This request must be made immediately after the incident by twirling their finger in the air and handing a review request card to the fourth official. However, each player has the right to ask their head coach to initiate a review request.
  4. The fourth official will inform the referee of the review request and, if play has stopped (and not restarted) since the incident, the referee will go to the referee review area (RRA) to review the replay footage. If play has continued since the incident, the referee will stop play when the ball is in a neutral zone and go to the RRA to review the replay footage.
  5. During the review, the referee will be assisted by a review operator, who will show replay footage on the monitor (e.g. different camera angles, split screen, different replay speeds, etc.).
  6. The original decision taken by the referee will not be changed unless the video replay footage shows clear evidence that the decision was a clear and obvious error or that there has been a serious missed incident. As the VS system involves a small number of cameras, the replay footage will often be inconclusive and thus the original decision may not be changed.
  7. The review request must be made immediately to:

– conform to the Laws of the Game requirement that a decision cannot be changed once play has restarted after a stoppage; and

– prevent unnecessary delays to the game while the team’s head coach (or, in their absence, the senior team official present in the technical area) considers whether to make a review request.

  1. After a goal is scored, the fourth official will review the footage on the monitor and inform the referee if a clear and obvious offense was committed by the attacking team. Unless the decision involves factual matters, the referee will then review the incident and make the final decision.

During the trial phase, it is expected that each team will be able to make two requests per match. If the review by the referee results in the original decision being changed, the team retains (does not lose) that review request.

The technology is not going to replace VAR, it is just going to be used as a cheaper alternative in leagues and associations that lack the current VAR technology to ensure fairness and accuracy across all levels of professional football.

FIFA state that there is no specific timeline, and no decision has been made on when the implementation will take place.

They are currently at the trial stage and after assessing the outcome of the trial will talk with the relevant stakeholders in order to decide on the next steps, including potential additional trials by FIFA and other governing bodies.

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