What will a National Second Tier mean for the NPL?

As the concept of a National Second Tier becomes a reality in Australia, there are questions on what the removal of the biggest clubs will mean for the State League competitions.

Football Australia are still discussing and workshopping the format of the concept, and how it operates and coexists with the National Premier Leagues (NPL) is one of the biggest questions.

When the NPL was created in 2013, the aim was to standardise the State League competitions across Australia and serve as a second tier to the A-League. The competition has been the top division in each state outside the A-League, with the winners playing off against each other at the end of the season.

The NPL hasn’t managed to bridge the gap between the State League clubs and the A-League, shown by the push for a true National Second Tier.

We know that the current NPL clubs would jump at the chance to join a National Second Tier, however, what would this mean for the State Leagues moving forward?

There is certainly commercial value to having South Melbourne and Melbourne Knights play off in the Victorian State League. Without the traditional powerhouse clubs in there, the Victorian NPL would struggle to attract sponsors and fans that drive the clubs, allowing them to perform at a semi-professional level.

Determining what the value of the NPL is without traditional clubs is a question that will be asked across every state competition if a National Second Tier drags them away.

Football Australia has previously floated a Champions League-style competition idea, with 32 teams competing in a group stage format followed by a knockout stage.

The allure of this concept is to reduce the cost of travel and the financial burden on the clubs at the league’s inception while allowing the clubs to continue to play in their respective state NPL competitions.

However, this is a stop-gap solution to get the competition off the ground, with the intention of easing into the transition from semi-professional into a fully professional second tier with promotion and relegation down the track.

There are certainly positives to this structure. Using the Champions League-style format to get the competition off the ground and running before evolving into a traditional league format could be the best way for a National Second Tier to launch.

The reality is that the first few years in a National Second Tier will be difficult for the clubs if the competition is a complete home and away league featuring at least 18 games. It is a distinct possibility clubs will fold, or flee back to the relative safety of their state competitions.

This isn’t a reason not to proceed with the competition, however, it is a danger that the clubs must recognise. To alleviate this danger, clubs can play in their state competitions while featuring in a parallel Champions League-style competition.

Some of the NPL’s biggest clubs would prefer a traditional style home and away season. South Melbourne President Nick Maikousis outlined in an interview with Soccerscene that a National Second Tier could mean some of the biggest clubs depart the State Leagues.

“We don’t agree that a Champions League-style competition is a National Second Division. Our views are that it needs to be a stand-alone competition. The challenge for the state federations is potentially losing some of their biggest member clubs,” Maikousis said.

“If you take South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights, and Heidelberg out of the NPL Victoria competition, it becomes a different conversation.”

He also pointed out that reluctance to lose these clubs from their respective state leagues by some stakeholders is similar to arguments raised against the formation of the National Soccer League in the 1970s.

Fears of losing the State League’s biggest clubs aren’t new. At the NSL’s inception in 1977, the Victorian Premier League forbid its clubs from joining the new competition. Mooroolbark SC, an unremarkable Eastern Suburbs club, broke the deadlock, paving the way for South Melbourne, Heidelberg and Footscray just to follow in their footsteps.

Mooroolbark unfortunately found themselves relegated out of the NSL in their only year in the competition, before ending up in the provisional league at the bottom of the football pyramid by the 1980s.

Eventually, any national second tier competition must become a stand-alone league if Australian football is to have a proper pyramid of competitions featuring promotion and relegation. The state NPL competitions will lose their biggest clubs to this, but it creates opportunities for other clubs to forge ahead and take their place.

Australian football needs to be brave in its attempt to create something that will outlast us all. Countries like England, Spain, and Italy have built their football not only on heritage, but also a deep talent pool developed playing in the leagues below their top division.

Promotion and relegation must be the end game for football if it’s to reach its full potential in Australia. For a club to climb from State League 5 to the A-League, from amateur to professional, is the ultimate expression of the beautiful game.

The state leagues will survive losing their biggest clubs, like they did at the NSL’s inception. The question is what value these competitions still have without their biggest assets.

777 Partners seeking completion of Everton deal

American firm 777 Partners are nearing the completion of their takeover at Everton after a long seven-month process is heading towards its conclusion.

As reported by TEAMtalk, 777 sources have confirmed that they have now passed the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors Test on the basis that they pay back an outstanding loan to MSP Sports Capital.

The firm are not expecting an imminent announcement from the Premier League but as mentioned, are confident that the takeover will be finalised around May time, ready for the all-important summer window.

However, Everton are keeping their options open and are actively looking at backup options in case this deal falters at the last minute. It remains a real interesting story that has mixed reports and an air of  scepticism about it.

MSP and two Liverpool-based businessmen Andy Bell and George Downing loaned Everton £158m ($303m AUD) which was due to be returned on Monday this week.

A short-term extension of the loan – taken out by majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri but which 777 have to pay if their takeover is to proceed – has been agreed in principle.

777 have stakes in many other clubs around Europe and the world including Hertha Berlin, Genoa, Standard Liege and A-League giant Melbourne Victory.

There is little doubt that there are mixed results regarding the clubs they takeover with a few angry protests and controversies shining the light on a potential shaky move that Everton couldn’t afford to go wayward.

At German side Hertha Berlin, they say that they ‘don’t have as much control as they would like’ and ‘haven’t been able to make the changes they would like there’, hindered by the German rules on ownership.

After the German side’s relegation last season from the Bundesliga and slow start to life in the 2. Bundesliga this season, there were many fan protests and banners attacking 777 owner Josh Wander however the cub have managed to steer the ship this season and sit in 7th place with four games remaining.

777 believe that they have done a good job with Italian club Genoa, however, who were promoted back into the Serie A last season under their stewardship.

They managed to improve finances, particularly through smart transfers like buying Radu Dragusin for £4.3m ($8.25m AUD) and selling him on to Tottenham just a year later for a huge fee of £26.7m ($51.25m AUD).

777 have missed payments on occasion at Standard Liege, but they have since been paid. They claim that they are battling against the financial mismanagement of previous owners and have lifted the carpet at the Belgian side to find many skeletons.

For Everton, after two points deductions that added up to eight points, the key for this move to run smoothly is to remain a top flight club in 2024/25 which they are in a fantastic position to do so after a controversial 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest on the weekend.

Everton will ‘not be a closed shop’ once they take control of the club and they aim to build their income and sustainability in the years.

It also leaves an interesting discussion as to Everton’s transfer strategy following their strict FFP rules that can’t be broken again.

The firm, led by CEO Josh Wander, intend to back the Toffees’ sporting director Kevin Thelwell and are hoping to strengthen the side this summer.

They do concede that the sale of key players such as Amadou Onana, Jarrad Branthwaite and Jordan Pickford may be required to balance the books, however.

777 claim they will do everything they can to avoid a third points deduction which would be placed on the club in 2024/25.

They also say that they will put a big focus on improving the Merseyside club’s academy, insisting that it will be utilised “correctly” and hope to have more homegrown talent break into the first team.

With the new stadium built and ready to go in 2025/26, the revenue streams will improve and there is a tiny light at the end of the tunnel, as long as the Toffees can continue to do their job on the pitch and secure the Premier League broadcasting money that is required to pay off loans and debt.

Despite the very loud outside noise and criticism, 777 remain calm about the debt being paid off before the deadline and the deal will be finalised.

777’s history and mixed results at other clubs leave this one in the air, and despite fans not wanting this move to occur, it could be one that saves Everton from a worst case scenario of administration after years of financial hardship.

A-Leagues secure last minute NEP deal for production partner

The A-Leagues have had an interesting past week, to say the least – as the league’s production partner for live broadcasts, Global Advance, was placed into voluntary administration.

This past weekend, the league managed to secure a last minute deal with international broadcasting and media services group NEP who will cover the remainder of the 2024 season.

The league just got the deal done in time, hours before Central Coast Mariners played Western United in an A-League Women clash and they were able to avoid an embarrassing Easter Thursday blackout.

The A-Leagues currently are understood to pay $12 million to Global Advance for production of all men’s and women’s games, the league is hoping to recuperate close to $1 million from Global Advance but it may be difficult.

Global Advance was established in 2020, its first major partner was the A-Leagues following the competitions’ split from long-term broadcaster Fox Sports.

Until they were placed onto voluntary administration, they had broadcasted every Men’s and Women’s match on Network Ten and its streaming partner Paramount.

The APL released a damning statement last Wednesday night that outlined the lack of communication from Global Advance regarding their financial situation.

“We are disappointed in the manner in which this has come to our attention, and the risk this has placed on our fan, player, club, broadcast and commercial commitments,” the APL said in a statement.

“We have been let down and will be working with the administrators to recoup monies owing to APL.

“Through a lot of hard work by a new production company, Ten-Paramount, and our team, we are close to finalising an agreement and are confident all matches will be broadcast, starting tomorrow.

“There are many challenges that such a short timeframe presents, but we are working through this urgently with all of our stakeholders, and we thank the production company for their co-operation, flexibility and expertise at such short notice.”

However, Said Jahani of Global Advance’s administrators Grant Thornton reiterated that there was immediate contact with the A-Leagues.

“We have immediately commenced a dialogue with the Australian Professional Leagues at the most senior levels to determine whether television coverage for all A-League men’s and women’s games this weekend can continue to be provided. he said in a statement

“At this stage, it remains uncertain as to whether this will be possible.”

It hasn’t quite been all smooth sailing to kick off the NEP era of broadcasting, with the cameraman being the butt of all jokes online after showing his phone notes to direct a message towards his director in the huge game between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in the Liberty A-League that had title implications for the Sky Blues.

It will be interesting to see how the APL can salvage this streaming mishap and produce some quality broadcasts as the finals approach for both competitions.

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