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It’s been gaining momentum for months, but a second division in Australia is in its planning stages and could be right around the corner.
This is a move that the game desperately needs, in order to revive interest in the Hyundai A-League and make games mean so much more particularly at the back end of the season.
A refreshed national competition could feature up to 16 teams and be named ‘The Championship.’
The proposed promotion-relegation set up would be the next step of Australian expansion following the two new A-League sides Western United FC and Macarthur FC.
Football Federation Australia have thrown their backing towards the long-awaited move, aimed to include some of the best and historic clubs outside the A-League.
Clubs in the running include former National Soccer League teams South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights, Sydney Olympic, Adelaide City, West Adelaide, Marconi Stallions, Heidelberg United and Brisbane City.
Re-introducing these semi-professional clubs to the main stage would be a huge boost to the overall interest for the top flight and give some incentive for more players to reach the pinnacle of football.
The increased number of spots available will only be a positive to further develop some talent depth.
With several clubs already showing interest, this is something that has the support to thrive.
Football Australia has officially named the eight foundation clubs to take part in the inaugural National Second Tier (NST) competition from March/April 2025.
The eight clubs match Football Australia’s criteria from a comprehensive process that determined if the clubs were ready to compete in the NST competition, with proposals from each team outlining the role they’ll play for this important step in Australian football.
The inaugural clubs are all based in eastern states, with New South Wales and Victoria boasting five and three teams respectively.
APIA Leichhardt FC – Leichhardt, New South Wales
Avondale FC – Parkville, Victoria
Marconi Stallions FC – Bossley Park, New South Wales
Preston Lions FC – Reservoir, Victoria
South Melbourne FC – Albert Park, Victoria
Sydney Olympic FC – Belmore, New South Wales
Sydney United 58 FC – Edensor Park, New South Wales
Wollongong Wolves FC – Wollongong, New South Wales
In a statement to media present in Sydney, Football Australia CEO James Johnson shared his delight for today’s confirmation.
“The establishment of the National Second Tier is a transformative step for Australian football, aligning perfectly with our 15-year strategic vision outlined in the XI Principles. It symbolises our commitment to reconnecting the football pyramid and enhancing the competitiveness of our national game,” he said.
“These clubs were chosen following a comprehensive and multi-phased NST Application Process that began in early 2023.
“Each club demonstrated not only their readiness in terms of operational and commercial elements but also their alignment with the strategic objectives of Australian football.
“This is more than just a competition; it’s a cornerstone in our mission to fortify the foundations of our sport. The National Second Tier will be instrumental in nurturing talent, engaging communities, and elevating the overall quality of football across the country.”
The inaugural season of NST will involve home and away matches culminating in a competitive Finals Series.
In early 2024, an additional 2-4 clubs will be considered through a refined application process, opening the floor to clubs outside of Victoria or New South Wales to make it truly national.
At this stage, two competition formats are being considered, but this is based on the successful selection of additional clubs next year:
A 10-team competition with two rounds plus a Finals Series, totalling 18 regular season matches.
A 12-team competition with two rounds plus a Finals Series, totalling 22 regular season matches.
The NST will be a key component of media rights from 2025 onwards, with a shifting focus to see how promotion and relegation will play a role as the competition evolves.
The upcoming 2024 season will see the eight foundation clubs and prospective new entrants continue to competing in their own Member Federation National Premier Leagues’ competitions, before moving towards a smooth transition to the NST.
Football Australia and Nike have confirmed a 10-year contract extension that will carry their partnership forward into a third decade.
This deal is already the longest of Nike’s federation club partnerships in Australia, with the well-known brand a staple of Football Australia’s desire for male and female football support at all levels of the game.
Football Australia’s elite national teams, grassroots participation, inclusivity programs, and its Legacy ’23 strategy will also continue to be strengthened.
Nike’s investment will contribute towards Football Australia’s Legacy ’23 initiative – harnessing the growth of women’s football to deliver enduring benefits for Australia’s largest community sport beyond 2023, including becoming the first community sport to reach gender parity in participation.
“This is a pivotal moment for Australian football. This extended partnership with Nike not only solidifies their commitment to our national teams, but it also provides significant resources for the growth of grassroots football, our ambitious Legacy ’23 plan and the strategic building of our national iconic brands,”Football Australia CEO James Johnson stated via media release.
“Our partnership with Nike has been transformative, and this extension represents a strong endorsement for Football Australia and the growth of football at all levels across the nation.
“We are proud to be part of Nike’s Global Football strategy, and this partnership extension signifies the strength and continued elevation of Australian football on the international stage.”
Nike also remains as the official apparel partner for all Australian national teams, including the Subway Socceroos, CommBank Matildas, Junior, and Youth men’s and women’s squads, as well as the CommBank Pararoos, and CommBank ParaMatildas.
“In the past two decades we’ve seen football in Australia grow to incredible heights and this year achieve sold out stadiums and record-breaking jersey sales,” Nike Pacific Vice President and General Manager, Ashley Reade, added in a statement:
“Nike is incredibly proud of the partnership with Football Australia to drive these outcomes.
“This year’s major tournament was a generational tipping point and, on every level, Nike continues to find ways to innovate, inspire and enable the future of athletes through football.
“This announcement represents our local commitment to the world game, to foster even stronger opportunities for gender equity from grassroots to the elite game. We believe in the vision of Football Australia and look forward to playing our part in the sport’s continued growth.”
Steph Catley is hugely involved with both organisations, not only as Nike athlete but as vice-captain of the Matildas.
“Not only does Nike’s innovative high-performance gear allow us to perform our best on the field, but their unwavering commitment to build the game, invest in us as athletes and broaden access for the next generation of players and fans plays a pivotal role in driving the sport forward,” she added via media release.
“We are thrilled to continue working with them and look forward to the exciting journey ahead.”
Football Australia and Nike will unite everyone at grassroots, before the heights of a global stage.