Plans to establish a national second division that would provide depth to the current A-league system have been outlined in a White Paper by Football Federation Australia this week.
If the plans are adopted, the second-tier competition would boast at least eight clubs and could be up and running by 2021-22.
FFA Chairman, Chris Nikou, said the white paper was prepared by the National Second Division Working Group, to consider the key principles that should underpin a second-tier competition for football in Australia.
“The development of a blueprint for a National Second Division which all stakeholders are aligned with is critical to better connect the various levels and pathways throughout the Australian football ecosystem.
“There is general consensus between the stakeholders involved in this process, the Association of Australian Football Clubs, Professional Footballers Australia, Member Federations and FFA that a sustainable National Second Division would be a significant step forward for football,” he said.
Mr Nikou said the purpose of the white paper is to provide a well-researched way forward.
“It is not intended to be definitive on the structure and operational aspects of any National Second Division, but rather to reflect the discussions that have taken place and consolidate a vast body of work that has already been done,” he said.
Identifying a roadmap for the delivery of the National Second Division, starting with financial sustainability, including the securing of commercial and broadcast arrangements as well as start-up capital will be part of the responsibility of the seven-member steering committee which will be chaired by an FFA representative
The committee will be established immediately to prepare an initial report for the FFA board by November, with a view to opening Expressions of Interest in the first half of 2020.
FFA Director, Remo Nogarotto, who led the working group, said the paper is intended to be read in the light of the recommendations of the New Leagues Working Group and to complement FFA’s long term strategic vision to widen and deepen pathways for both clubs, coaches, referees and players.
“Once established, we believe a National Second Division would provide an opportunity for football to broaden its reach to be a truly national game.
“It also has the potential to build a bridge between state-based National Premier Leagues and the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League and heal some divisions that have held the game back.
“Over the last 15 years, football has made great progress, however, there remain strong elements within our sport that feel marginalised.
“For Australian football to reach its potential, all elements of the game must pull in a single direction,” he said.
The timing of the division is yet to be determined and could run in the winter or summer depending on discussions with stakeholders.
Clubs would also have to meet a requirement of average attendances of at least 3000 by year three or provide a case model on how to achieve those numbers if they hadn’t attained that mark.
Several existing NPL teams and failed A-League expansion bids such as South Melbourne, Canberra and Wollongong are considered candidates for the new competition.