The New National Premier Leagues (NPL) competition is about to start up in Western Australia, even if only in name, as no clubs were prepared to sign the participation agreements laid before them. The FFA and Football West continue to claim that this ill-conceived and hurried-through league is ultimately going to benefit the game. Only time will tell if that is in fact the case.
Having rushed the NPL through to meet an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) deadline, the proper foundations have not been laid to ensure that the competition is an immediate success. The lack of investment from the top will put added pressure on its chances of living up to the hype.
Every A-League club will have a side in their local NPL competition, although it will be interesting to see under what name these teams operate as FIFA precludes a team owning another team in a competition that is linked to the one that they already play in. As the NPL has been pitched to the AFC as a “second tier” competition to the A-League, and the top teams in the NPL will be eligible to play in the soon to be played FFA Cup competition, which will also include all A-League clubs, it would appear almost impossible for the FFA to appease FIFA, and the A-league sides to be allowed to play under the same name.
The other area of confusion will in fact be player registrations. Any A-League player will be on a full time professional contract with their club, which will preclude them from playing in the NPL unless they are “loaned out” to that club. If they are indeed loaned out, the FFA will need to see that the NPL side is now paying their wages and not the A-League side. In the past the FFA have hidden behind a thing they call “dual registration” a concept FIFA advised Not The Footy Show does not exist under its rules.
Perth Glory after a great deal of opposition have finally been accepted into the NPL in Western Australia. Pressure was applied to key stakeholders and club presidents within the game to make sure that they would play in the inaugural season. It is expected that they will play all of their home games at Intiga Stadium the home of Inglewood United, thanks to Declan Kelly who has long been involved with Inglewood and is a current Board Member and employee with Perth Glory.
The man who stepped into the breach at Perth Glory in a Chief Operations Officer role when the club was without a CEO, John Boardman, who works for Intiga, is expected to head the NPL clubs operations.
Mr Boardman showed during his time at Perth Glory that he is a man who gets things done, and one of his tasks will be to attract the best young players in the state to the club’s NPL team. What this may mean is that other NPL clubs will have to start signing young talented players to some form of contract so that they can firstly remain competitive in the NPL, and secondly so that they can demand compensation should Perth Glory or any other A-League club come knocking. The problem will be many young players will not want to be tied to a club in case that should happen.
Therefore the FFA need to ensure that the compensation packages laid out by FIFA are adhered to, and are policed to ensure that clubs receive what is rightfully theirs and within the FIFA timelines. If A-League clubs choose not to pay they will need to be suspended and fined as per FIFA rules. A strong application of the rules must be applied or the whole process will descend into chaos and recrimination.
There is no doubt many A-League clubs who are doing it tough financially will be looking to their NPL club to become the carrot that entices another international team – like Manchester City has at Melbourne Heart,- to invest in them. Sadly with Australia producing so few top flight players in recent years it may take a little more than a successful NPL side before that happens.
The NPL is here to stay as long as Australia remains a part of the AFC, however it is unlikely to be a level playing field. The A-League clubs will have more full time manpower on hand to market and attract sponsors to their teams. Unless the clubs stand united and actually start communicating civilly between each other as they did in the past they are going to experience a great deal of pain. One key issue is that they must immediately cease approaching players from other clubs without asking permission first. If they do this amongst themselves they can then demand the same behaviour from the A-League clubs.
In Western Australia with no Participation Agreements signed the clubs may yet have options open to them if the league is dominated by the money and resources of the local A-League club, and participating proves financially testing. It also means Perth Glory’s team whatever it may be called will have to be careful how it performs in season one. In the past a team from the club did little to swell local crowds and many expect the same outcome now.
The next 18 months are certainly going to be very interesting.