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Support grows for National Second Division ahead of AAFC meeting

The Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) will take the next step towards its plans to have a national second division in place by 2022, holding a meeting this week with interested member federation clubs.

Over 50 clubs across Australia are set to be a part of the discussion on Tuesday, which will centre around the criteria of the proposed second division, with a working title of ‘The Championship’.

AAFC will provide a public statement on the progress made throughout the meeting the following day.

This is welcome news for football fans who have been pushing for a proper football system, with AAFC also providing possible timelines, something the game has been crying out for.

The organisation would have been heartened to hear of Melbourne Victory owner Joe Mirabella’s comments recently, who fully backed the implementation of a national second division.

He told The Age: We need it (a second division) because it is a point of difference to our game and to other sports. We need competition in the A-League. We need our grassroots to eventually play into a B-League and then play towards winning a spot in the A-League.”

“I don’t care if it is Victory, Sydney FC or Melbourne City. It is about merit.”

Mirabella’s comments are not revolutionary, but are significant, because of who he is.

A Melbourne Victory owner publicly admitting the game needs promotion and relegation might go against his own interests, based on the current A-League model, however, he realises it is for the betterment of the sport in this country.

It will provide the game with more opportunities across the board and will embrace what makes football unique.

“I have discussed this with a lot of football people,” he continued.

“When you get journalists, commentators and fans of the game, ex-players who have played for the country and they are all in favour of the second division then you can see there is a groundswell of support going.

“My family is a football family. But when they are saying the A-League has become boring you have to do something.”

Ultimately, the decision to implement a connected football pyramid will come down to the FFA, who continue to be in discussions with AAFC.

The ‘XI Principles’ document which was released at the start of July, highlighted various agenda points in the game that the governing body would look to fix or improve.

Detail on the second division was light, with just one passage of the document stating “consider the development of a second-tier competition”.

In saying this however, the XI Principles is a living document, meaning amendments will be made to it in the future, as the FFA assesses the best way forward for the game in financially difficult times.

Following the results of a survey of the Australian football community based on the XI Principles paper, showing 99% of respondents insist the game undertakes a major overhaul, FFA CEO James Johnson spoke about the possibilities of a national second division.

“Could there be a second-tier competition, with 10 or 12 teams that play 20-odd rounds home and away or do we look at a second-tier competition with conferences based in different states around the country that play half the season at state level and then end up playing at national level in a group stage, similar to how the Brazilian league operates,” he told News Corp.

“There’s two parts to the season that starts at state level, then a qualification process that goes into a national level of competition.

“This is something we could look at because someone of our challenges in Australia are similar to Brazil – where you have competition that are strong at state level and you have a very big country geographically, so their solution was to use this sort of format.”

Whether you believe the Brazilian system is suitable for Australia or not, it is important for football fans to see those in charge of the game continue to debate the merits of various models, led by an administrator who is a football person.

With the greatest respect, what was the likelihood of former FFA CEO David Gallop speaking about the Japanese footballing model as opposed to the Brazilian model in the public eye?

The national second division is coming, in what form we are unsure, but the consensus seems to be when and how, not if.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Western United names JPEX as new Gold Partner

Prijovic

Western United have announced an exciting partnership with Japanese crypto exchange company JPEX, who will join the Club as a Gold Partner ahead of the 2021/22 season.

JPEX will also sponsor United defender and reigning Player of the Season Tomoki Imai throughout the upcoming campaign.

Western United’s General Manager of Commercial, Chris Speldewinde, praised the new partnership which shows the club is agile in the modern marketplace.

“Cryptocurrency and different ways of trading currencies have become such huge things recently, and to have this partnership with JPEX is massive for the Club,” he said.

“It shows a really positive attitude from the Club, that we are dynamic, reacting to the real world and putting our best foot forward in a number of different sectors with our partnerships.

“JPEX is a company right at the forefront of this technology and we are really excited to work with them, and particularly as well to see them support Tomoki this season.”

JPEX began working in cryptocurrency as recently as July 2020 and have already grown to be one of the leading players in the field.

The company’s values are aligned with those of Western United and are a big reason as to why this partnership has taken place.

“The Foodbank charity event gave us an unforgotten impression as WUFC is assisting the community, just like we are doing to help people with money,” JPEX General Manager Vincent Le said.

“As a Japan based company, we grew up quickly in the past year in Asia, we are willing to enlarge our business and we are seeking more exposure in Australia. Hence, partnering with WUFC will be our steppingstone to let more and more Australian audiences know us.

“The Crypto market, especially under the COVID period, is becoming the mainstream of the world’s financial market. We hope we can make more Australian’s know more about what Crypto is.”

JPEX operates with a professional team that ensures the security of all of its clients’ buying and trading, with the slogan ‘fix the money, fix the world’.

Currently operating in the Asian-Pacific market, JPEX strives to expand globally and become one of the five largest exchanges in the world.

Joe Spiteri: “If you have players dribbling a lot in our curriculum, it seems they are being coached out of it”

Joe Spiteri is a name well known around Australian football circles and for good reason.

The former Australian international gritted his teeth for clubs in the National Soccer League, including being an influential part of a Melbourne Knights side in the mid 90’s – which is widely regarded as one of the best teams Australia has ever seen.

His exploits in the domestic competition eventually got him a move overseas, where he played for Sturm Graz in Austria, Lierse in Belgium and IFK Norrkoping in Sweden.

In a wide-ranging chat with Soccerscene, the 48-year-old reflected on his playing career, explaining the differences at the time between plying his trade overseas and in Australia.

“The NSL level overall, don’t get me wrong, was pretty high,” he said.

“Back in the Melbourne Knights days we had one of the best teams at that time and is comparable to nowadays with the ability that was in that team. The number of national players who were playing for us were fantastic and they would be a hard team to beat (nowadays).

“But overseas the fitness level was completely above the Australian level at the time, it was considerably better.”

“I think the overseas setup took training to a whole new level; we were training all day every day.

“They had doctors, pediatrists, dietitians, everything over there and that was 25 years ago now.

“The science involved – we had heart rate monitors back then, our levels of training were monitored, our supplements program were monitored, our blood oxygen levels were monitored, we had to maintain a certain weight for our playing style and position, it was all next level and basically nothing was left to chance.

“Whereas in Australia at that time, there was nothing of that scientific level that there is now here.”

After coming back to Australia in the final years of his playing career, Spiteri would eventually begin his own academy, Soccer Pro Academy, to help further develop the next generation of footballers.

“I eventually moved to Werribee City when I was finishing up my playing career and there, they offered me the position of junior coaching director,” he said.

“From there, I eventually progressed into starting my own academy at the club and then after starting that, the level of interest increased and I further developed the idea.

“I started branching out to different areas, with different clubs and schools – before Covid we had over 450 kids across 8 venues in the west of Melbourne.

“Coaching kids is something that I’ve always done, even as a professional player I was sent out to schools and so forth. The enjoyment you get from seeing an under 5’s kid come to your academy bawling his out because he doesn’t know or want to play the game and then go on to play at a higher level and push up through the ranks is something very rewarding.”

Spiteri believes that at a junior development level, promising young players are being priced out of the game which is a significant issue.

“The NPL program and the restriction of being able to play at the highest level due to financial standings is concerning to myself,” he said.

“Back in the day you were either good or bad, the fees were pretty much standard across every club and every league.

“If you were good enough, you’d play in the higher leagues and get into the super league teams, if you weren’t you’d play at the lower clubs.

“Nowadays if you want to play at the highest level, there’s huge a gap in the fees you have to pay.

“Anytime you’re restricted on financial standings, you’re always missing out on some really good players.

“Back in the day, there wasn’t the academy system there is now, the professionalism, there’s a lot of different opportunities and competition.  Players don’t always have to join a club per say, they can join an academy and play in an academy team and they can still have the same, if not better, development as a footballer.”

Overall, the former NSL striker has some concerns around the national program and the way coaches are told to implement a certain style of play.

“In regards to the national curriculum and how coaches are asked to develop their players, I think we focus too much on maintaining possession and not enough on going around players, dribbling and creating goal scoring opportunities.

“I think we are falling behind in that factor and it’s highlighted in our national teams.

“Our national teams seem to maintain possession a lot, but not score or have the attacking flair that you see from European or South American nations.

“If you have players dribbling a lot in our curriculum, it seems they are being coached out of it, which I think is an issue.”

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