JULY 8 2017 – 1:19PM
Few people disagree that there is a need for an A-League second division.
It would help develop talent and give younger players the chance to prove themselves in a professional, or semi-professional environment.
Competition and supporter interest would intensify (especially when promotion and relegation is finally introduced).
Ultimately the national team would gain too, as it is likely the second tier would hothouse younger players and they would improve far quicker than they do in the current environment, in which opportunities to play at the top level are limited.
The lack of expansion and growth in the top tier – the A-League – is a road block for many talented younger players.
There are only 10 A-League clubs, each of which has five visa spots for foreigners, meaning a typical 23-man squad has only 18 places for locals – 180 full-time professional positions at best for male players to earn a full-time living at the game.
The newly formed Australian Association of Professional Clubs, the main champion of the idea, has been long on elaborating their vision, but short on producing the detail of how their hopes could be achieved.
How such a league would be financed, structured, marketed and operated has yet to be explained.
Critics have seized on the lack of detail to suggest that whatever claims are made for a second division, all it will be is a replication of the old NSL which in the end foundered under a lack of capital and poor governance structures.
Rabiah Krayem, who in a previous life was a senior executive with the North Queensland Fury, the former A-League club, and the NRL expansion franchise North Queensland Cowboys, both based in Townsville, was this week elected as chairman of the AAPC.
A new board of directors was also elected, and the group will, he says, meet in Brisbane next weekend to start putting some flesh on the bones of its strategy to get an NPL Division Two up and running to co-incide with the planned expansion of the A-League to 12 clubs in the 2018-19 season.
Krayem says that meeting will discuss the sort of financial structure any clubs will need to have in place to be part of Division 2, what way a second tier would be established and what the other criteria required to apply for a spot in the mooted competition will be.
The PFA, the players union, recently published a study which argued that to be a viable franchise with women’s and youth teams a second-tier club should have an operating budget of $5.5 million.
Krayem and his colleagues say that while that is an idealistic target, it is not feasible, nor necessary, for what they have in mind, at least at the start.
“This is not the A-League, we don’t want to compete with the A-League or replace it and we won’t have the same cost structures. We will work with the state federations and the PFA to try to develop criteria for the new clubs, but we don’t feel that $5.5 million figure is realistic or necessary.
“We want to complement the A-League, widen the professional and semi-professional base of the game and eventually have a pyramid structure where clubs win promotion on merit – and teams get relegated for failing to perform. ”
So how much will clubs need to have?
Krayem argues that as so many existing clubs already have coaches, staff, grounds and infrastructure those costs will not be an addition to an increased wages bill.
Many teams in the various state NPLs now spend $500,000 to $1 million, and while that will have to increase considerably it will not be anywhere near the total cost $5.5 million floated by the PFA.
“There will be extra costs, of course. We are talking about more semi-professional or professional clubs, and of building a division that is a bridge to the A-League.”
No shape for the proposed structure has been finalised. It could be two conferences of 10 teams, split on east-west or north-south lines, with the top two or four in each conference playing off in a finals series to determine who gets promoted.
Or it may be a genuinely national league of 20 clubs from all over the country, although the cost of travel and the logistics may make that prohibitively expensive.
The dream is alive, but much work remains to be done to find financiers and investors, sponsors and backers, to make it a reality.
Source : The Canberra Times