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Why a National Second Division is an absolute must

Expansion to a second division has been a huge talking point for Australian soccer fans with the question being posed as to when it might happen.

The A-League is now independent – now is the chance to bring together those teams with National Premier League sides to increase interest in the game.

While two new A-League teams Western United and Macarthur FC will change up the structure of the A-League, fans are still craving a second division that will ultimately give more teams a shot at the highest level.

It’s now a matter of when, not if, as the white paper has been developed as a plan for the National Second Division in Australia.

The National Second Division Working Group has prepared a proposal to drive the future of the game under FFA control. It’s been a staple for other countries around the world, but a promotion and relegation system doesn’t exist in Australia yet.

With the A-League currently consisting of 10 (soon to be 12) teams, there is little room for players to remain at a top flight level. Clubs have often gone for the ‘recycling’ of players, looking for a tried and true A-League player instead of scouting a NPL level talent.

The main consideration from the white paper is building depth in roster spots for players looking to make their mark.

In its current climate, there isn’t a proper pathway to progress from NPL to A-League. Without getting used to the tempo and higher standard, NPL players may find it tough to break into and sustain themselves in a professional environment.

There’s no doubt that a second division will create more awareness for clubs looking to make a new signing and players will have greater incentive to advance in their career.

Building a greater talent pool will lead to more opportunities to grow and potentially make an impact at the international level. Particularly for younger players, a second division is a great stepping stone to gain experience before mixing it with the A-League’s best and beyond if overseas.

It means there’ll be more full-time professionals, not only in a playing sense but for coaches and officials as well. Having that desire to improve is important as Asian countries are quickly bolstering their leagues with quality.

There are some former National Soccer League (NSL) clubs already boasting adequate facilities to meet any minimum requirement, and with government funding other clubs can ensure their resources are up to speed.

Revamping the A-League into a promotion and relegation system has clear benefits to give the competition a complete refresh. Imagine the tense drama of adding a relegation battle to a title race and finals series? What about a smaller club going for a road to glory? It’s what we want to see.

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Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

Grassroots sport given new lease of life in Frankston

The Frankston City Council have been provided $2.9 million in funding, part of projects that the Victorian Government has been involved with.

The Frankston City Council have been provided $2.9 million in funding, in a move that forms part of the ongoing community sport and recreation infrastructure projects that the Victorian Government has been involved with since 2014 – exceeding the amount of $1 billion.

Ballam Park, home to the Peninsula Strikers Junior Football (Soccer) Club, were granted $300,000 as an investment towards a new pavilion and an installation of new lighting for two pitches to allow further utilisation of the pitches for training and games.

The club consists of around 300 registered players and a rebuilt facility will ensure that it is inclusive for female participants. This is a boost and reassurance of female participation throughout all age groups.

Players and coaches will be delighted to find that the new pavilion created by the grants will include eight new female-friendly changerooms, kitchen, kiosk, social space, referee changerooms, storage, first-aid accessibility and public toilets. On top of this, there will be new parking facilities with street lighting upgrades for patron safety.

In addition to the Victorian Government’s financial contribution to Frankston City Council’s grassroot clubs, RF Miles Recreation Reserve, home to the Seaford Tigers Football (Aussie Rules), Netball and Cricket Clubs, will receive a new pavilion too.

Following consistent growth of participation numbers for the clubs of the three different codes, they will be treated to a brand new two-storey pavilion to cater for them. This will also include female-friendly changerooms and amenities, social and meeting rooms, first-aid room and umpire changerooms.

The oval at RF Miles Recreation Reserve will consist of a reconfigured larger oval with lighting that will meet to AFL standards. Along with this a new scoreboard, a coach’s box, cricket nets and brand-new netball courts.

All was made possible through the government’s Local Sports Grants initiative. The timing of the announcement and delivery conveniently falls in line with the lifestyle recovery post-covid. As such projects will inherently create much needed stimulating and restoration of the local economies, creating new jobs and bringing communities closer together.

Never assume ethnicity is the problem, without addressing the behaviour

The association between a violent brawl at a NPL game and Football Australia rescinding the ban on ethnic club names couldn't be further from the fact, and only helps pernicious issues within Australian sporting culture remain unchallenged.

The association between a violent brawl at a National Premier League (NPL) game and Football Australia (FA) rescinding the ban on ethnic club names couldn’t be further from the fact, and only helps pernicious issues within Australian sporting culture remain unchallenged.

The fight between spectators at a NPL game between Rockdale Ilinden and Sydney United 58 on Sunday was an alarming scene of violence. The fight began after a spectator entered the pitch and interfered with a player, which sparked a full-blown melee where objects were thrown by spectators as police were called to quell the conflict.

In the aftermath, media outlets were quick to jump to the narrative that this fight was caused by the FA’s Inclusivity Principles for Club Identity (IPCI). Previously, clubs had been banned from using names that alluded to ethnic boundaries or events at the advent of the A-league and the death of the NSL, under a National Club Identity Policy which was replaced by the IPCI. While the clubs eschewed their ethnic names and insignia during the period this policy was in place, their heritage and supporter base remained untouched.

FA CEO James Johnson was forced to defend the policy on 2GB radio, while host Ray Hadley grilled him on the incident. To argue that the IPCI caused the violence in the stands on Sunday is to ignore a history of violence in Australian sport. Hadley insinuates that this is an issue for football particularly: “It’s almost unheard of in modern-day sport in Australia. Sometimes things get out of hand at Rugby league, Rugby Union, more particularly your sport”. In his favourite sport – one that hasn’t been “captivated by PC BS” as he eloquently states – spectators are regularly charged with assault after violent clashes.

As recently as this year, Parramatta fans fought in a wild brawl with their fellow supporters at a game. The issue is present within AFL, where spectators are regularly charged with assault. In 2018 two men were hospitalised after being attacked after an AFL game in Melbourne by men wearing their club colours proudly. In 2010 at the WACA, during a one-day test between Australia and Pakistan, a spectator stormed the field and tackled a Pakistani player and was charged with assault and trespass. The problem is a cultural one, that is endemic across all of Australian sport. To blame a spectator brawl on something as irrelevant as the name and identity of the clubs involved, while turning a blind eye to a history of violence that is perpetuated throughout Australian sport is to condemn ourselves to never fixing the cause, and never finding the solution.

Even within the world of football, violence between fans is not a new phenomenon despite what critics of the IPCI would like you to think. It happened before the ban on ethnic club names, it happened during the ban, and it will continue to happen after the introduction of the IPCI. Why is this so? Because a small minority of Australian spectators, regardless of their sport, are prone to violence. Violence between spectators is a worldwide phenomenon and amazingly remains so in countries whose populations are homogeneous and don’t divide themselves into clubs based on their heritage or ethnicity.

NSW Police Detective Superintendent Anthony Cooke stated that it was only a small minority of the spectators involved in the melee on Sunday, and there was no clear link to ethnic violence. With the former National Club Identity Policy in place, football was less inclusive of those of other cultures and ethnicity with little benefit to the game, while suppressing communities that embraced the world game.

This isn’t an effort to downplay the violence in the stands on Sunday however, but to blame the IPCI however is to ignore the fact that it is a minority of people who engage in anti-social behaviour. It remains easier to direct fault towards the policy of the FA instead of addresses the cultural issues that remain within football and Australian sport as a whole.

“We need to focus on the behaviours, not the ethnicity,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson stated in his interview with Ray Hadley. To remove spectator violence from all levels of the football pyramid we need to do exactly this. To villainize supporters based on the heritage of the club they support is to ignore the very real dangers of anti-social behaviour that is fuelled by far greater animosity than the name on their badge. Hadley misses this point completely and seems to believe that if the club had an anglicised name then the spectator violence wouldn’t have happened. The evidence shows this is objectively wrong and drawing upon ethnicity is simply a media narrative that damages the clubs and the footballing industry. The NSL, the precursor to the A-league, was severely damaged and ultimately destroyed by this stigma being attached by the media.

Hadley’s and 2GB’s attempted stitch-up of Johnson shouldn’t be a surprise. Football within Australia has a long history of being some sort of ethnic boogeyman, with the foreigner with the strange name being an easy target for disdain. While the FA has made it clear it won’t tolerate this behaviour from spectators, fans, and club officials, it has also taken the correct stance in deciding to punish those who do wrong based solely on their behaviour. While the violent brawl was unacceptable, and those involved need to be heavily punished with bans as Football Australia intends to do, it isn’t unheard of in the slightest. These issues aren’t self-contained to football or ethnically named clubs and are instead just a symptom of a much larger illness in Australian sporting culture. To ignore the violence that continues to permeate with Australian sport in an attempt to blame a policy that
contributes little to the issue will only allow the real causes to remain unchecked.

Football Tasmania welcomes Labor’s commitment to the World Game

Labor committed to Football in Tasmania

Football Tasmania has welcomed Labor’s commitment to improve football infrastructure and to support more Tasmanians in enjoying the game, including the construction of a boutique rectangular stadium in Hobart.

If elected, Labor has committed to matching the Liberals’ $10 million worth of upgrades to Valley Road, Birch Avenue, Lightwood Park and Churchill Park in order to prepare each venue for the hosting of basecamps for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

In addition, Labor will put $4.8 million towards infrastructure upgrades at the Clare Street, Montello Road, Somerset, Ulverstone, Prospect Vale and Wentworth Park footballing venues.

In what comes as exciting news for Tasmania’s potential bid for an A-League side, Labor has committed to building a 10,000-15,000 seat capacity boutique rectangular stadium in Hobart if elected in majority.

Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley thanked Labor for their recognition of the value that grassroots football has for communities.

“As Tasmania’s most played team sport, football provides enormous health, social and economic benefits to the community,” he said.

“However, as the sport continues to grow, we are beginning to outgrow our facilities, with challenges finding enough adequate training, playing and changing-room spaces for our expanding participant base.

“We thank Labor for today’s commitment, which in addition to allowing more Tasmanians to access our great game, will also put the upgraded venues in a great position to be selected as 2023 World Cup training bases.”

Bulkeley acknowledged that the prospect of a rectangular stadium in Tasmania would take football to the next level in the state.

“We’re excited about Labor’s vision to build a rectangular stadium in Hobart, which will truly take the game to the next level in Tasmania and help us attract more high-level content to clear pathways for our talented juniors to reach the pinnacles of our sport,” he added.

“It’s great to see both major parties have now demonstrated their commitment to a rectangular stadium in the state, and clearly recognise the significant value football provides to the community.

“We look forward to working with the next Government to make a rectangular stadium a reality, and ensure football can continue to grow so even more Tasmanians can enjoy the benefits of the World Game.”

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