“Greatness Awaits” is the tag lines for PS4 the sponsors of the National Premier Leagues in Australia, but one has to ask how long fans of the game will have to wait.
In Western Australia the whole process switching from a State League format which had laboured along to the new promised bells and whistles NPL was heavily flawed. The participation agreement drawn up by Football West and which Not The Footy Show believes no club has still signed, as legal advice warned them not to, would have seen them lose more than they gained.
The competition was rushed through, with Football West under immense pressure from the FFA who wanted to keep good on a promise to the Asian Football Confederation that they had a second tier competition to the A-League up and running by 2014. As a result the outcome was a long way from being as successful as it should have been and the standard of football on display last season instead of improving was overall well below anything the State league produced in the last 20 years.
Football West went through an extensive process to determine the clubs that should be in the new NPL. A process that came under heavy criticism from clubs as to whether it was in fact impartial, and whether all clubs were given what Australians like to call ‘a fair go.’
One team to benefit from this process was Subiaco United, a club that this writer is a life member of. Their home ground at Rosalie Park did not meet the NPL criteria so they played their home games at the WA Athletics Stadium. Many queried this move and whether it was in fact sustainable. It would appear that after one season it has proved it was not.
In fact the club’s selection to the NPL was highlighted in the Football West press release which stated “Subiaco will move from the All Flags State Second Division into the top flight having shown it has the structure, personnel and resources to make a successful transition. The club has committed to make use of one of WA’s newest sporting facilities by playing home games at the WA Athletics Stadium in Mt Claremont.”
Subiaco United will return to Rosalie Park to play its NPL fixtures in 2015. It will be interesting to see how the club satisfies the ground criteria this season in order to remain a part of the NPL.
One requirement is “A temporary or permanent fence fully enclosing the field of play, with a recommended height between 800mm and 1000mm. Any temporary fencing must be approved by Football West. Where it is not possible to erect a perimeter fence, Football West may negotiate alternative arrangements.” There is then the issue of signage, where “24m linear metres is to be reserved for Sony PS4 signage comprising 8m on the centre of the far side of the field (4m each side of the half-way line) and 8m behind each goal.” Unless things have changed Subiaco Council were very rigid in what and how signage could be displayed. Also we have the small matter of seating, “A permanent structure specifically designed for seating spectators situated outside the clubrooms that provides unobstructed viewing to the field of play and that provides seating for a minimum of 120 people. The structure must be approved by Football West.”
All of these are going to be very difficult to achieve as Rosalie Park is a public open space. There is nothing to stop any member of the public walking across the pitch with their dog at any time. Having played cricket, rugby and football at Rosalie Park this has been witnessed first hand by this writer. Having served on the committee and as part of the Rosalie Park Sporting Association, this writer also knows first hand how hard it was to try and achieve these things with the local council.
Cynics will say that Subiaco were only accepted into the NPL due to the massive junior set up that they have. With fees for juniors at NPL clubs being from $700 upwards compared to around $300 a season at a state league club, this argument carries a little weight.
Football West claim that due process was followed, and in fact highlight this by saying “Extensive analysis of compliance and commitment was conducted by Football West staff and clubs conducted presentations to further support their initial written submissions. All applications, videos of presentations and supporting documentation was provided to the Department of Sport and Recreation and Football Federation Australia for comment. Applications were also analysed by an independent football consultant from New South Wales.”
Whatever the reason, the question has to be asked when clubs had to submit a comprehensive business plan how one club’s plan has fallen over in just one season. Did this club underestimate the costs of semi-professional football as many long standing clubs warned? Or have they fallen victim, as a new club playing at this level, to a lack of marketing and promotion of the NPL? Another factor that many warned would end up hurting all of the clubs.
It is understood that after season one of the NPL a few other clubs found the costs to have been more than anticipated. It will be interesting to see how their fare in season 2. Also how they find the funds to submit for a Junior NPL side as Football West moves to introduce such a format in 2016. Surely with the aforementioned fees this is not another ploy to grab money from Juniors to prop up the senior game? Many clubs will feel they have to submit to be a part of this, but the key question is where are the finances going to come to underpin the investment required?
Subiaco’s move, although not a surprise, should not have happened after one season, and one would think other clubs would be within their rights to object to the venue at which their home games will be played. It sadly brings into question once again the process of selection to the NPL and also highlights the strain being put on clubs. Season 2 of the NPL will we expect be a defining one. Will the league expand as planned or will clubs opt out in order to survive and protect their club’s history and heritage.
Then again if the AFC throw Australia out of the Confederation everything could change once again; although many say this is unlikely to happen there is a strong possibility, as many member nations would be in favour of Australia returning to Oceania.