Congratulations to Joondalup United on gaining promotion to the WA NPL for 2017, after winning the first division Championship following a 1-3 away win against the Western Knights, when Mandurah could only draw 4-4 with local rivals Rockingham City. Joondalup United claiming the title from last year’s Champions by two points.
However, Joondalup United had more than just the game to worry about coming into their last match. If they wanted to be the team promoted they had to find a ground for next season before 5pm on the day of their last game. Luckily Sorrento came to their aid and a deal was signed before kick off that they would play home games ate Percy Doyle Reserve in 2017.
Football West had deemed that Joondalup United’s current home ground, Forrest Park, did not meet NPL standards. When Not The Footy Show asked what differed from Subiaco’s Rosalie Park, where the relegated team has played for the past three seasons, Football West did not give an answer.
Joondalup United has been talking to Wanneroo Council about improving their ground and bringing all of their junior teams to Forrest Park to play since July last year. The plan is to develop some undercover viewing from the clubrooms and have two pitches, a new car Park and the current floodlights will be moved and upgraded to a lux level to meet the requirements to be in the NPL. Floodlight requirements that only one club currently meets.
So here is a club not only moving in the right direction on the pitch but also off of it.
Sadly though in 2017 they will be forced to play at another ground in order to take up their position in the NPL. The Western Knights were forced do the same in 2012, the last season of the old State Premier League. The cost of this was crippling to a club that had been a dominant side in the Premier League. Paying a lease at their traditional home ground at Nash Field, and then having to pay a match day fee to the club their shared with proved catastrophic. Incoming revenue was restricted and barely covered the two rents, so money spent on quality players also became unavailable to the coaching staff. With the NTC not being given points for their games, but finishing last, the Western Knights were relegated; the last team from the State Premier League to suffer that fate.
This was a team that had won the Premiership in 2009 and 2010, made the top five finals in 2011 and won the State League cup in 2008. A team that along with Perth SC had dominated the 2000’s under Ronnie Campbell.
Hopefully Joondalup United will not suffer a similar situation, where the costs to ground share end up having a huge impact on the club as a whole. One thing that may work in the club’s favour is that their Reserves also won the league, while the under 18’s came fifth. So if they can keep many of these players they may well have the depth at the club.
One does have to ask whether the clubs should agree that some leeway should be given to clubs coming up, where they have already started the move to develop their facilities long before they are promoted. After all it is supposed to be about promoting the game, rather than restricting teams who are moving in the right direction. History shows that moving grounds the world over can be the death of a club.
Another issue that never came into play, but could have done if Joondalup United had not found a club willing to share their ground, was a play off between the second placed team from the First Division and the last placed team from the NPL.
Whereas on paper this looks a great idea and should be the ideal solution it would have been heavily flawed.
First of all last-placed Subiaco United played their last league game on the 27th of August. Second placed Mandurah City played their last game yesterday, the 17th of September. That is a difference of three weeks since the two played their last game. Subiaco would have had to wait a month before their play off game. Would Subiaco United’s squad have kept training in the hope that they had the chance of a play-off game to hang on to their NPL status? Would the club have been able to afford to pay players to train for three weeks without a game?
From Mandurah’s perspective suddenly the rules under which they have been competing all season would have changed. With the NPL teams being restricted in terms of the players that they can play on a match day, by the number of points allocated to each player based on age, club loyalty, experience. Those points must add up to no more than 200 at any one time on the pitch.
Mandurah were going to be forced to play under NPL conditions meaning that Mandurah City’s player roster must comply with the FFA’s Player Points System; This is not a Football West ruling but an FFA one. Credit to Mandurah City, although we believe they were far from happy about this stipulation, they did submit a player roster along with the required supporting documentation (evidence of player’s citizenship/permanent residency status) to Football West before the end of the week, in case a play off game been necessary.
When former CEO Peter Hugg pushed through the NPL structure on behalf of the FFA he did state that in the first few years it would be “a work in progress.” How prophetic were those words? This is season three, and coming into the last game of the season for the teams in the division below there was much confusion around the clubs as to the situation should Joondalup not have found an alternate venue to play at in 2017. To make matters worse, it would appear that Football West were totally oblivious to the confusion and rumours as to how the season would play out doing the rounds. Surely a simple statement on their website at the start of the week, explaining the various scenarios would have been the appropriate way to communicate with the “football family?”
Hopefully this will not happen again. Discussions need to take place in relation to clubs having earned the right to be promoted having a certain timeframe to bring their grounds up to standard. If a play off is required, the team being relegated should not have a four week gap before that game, and neither should the team hoping to come up be forced to play the game under different rules. Be it the clubs themselves, or the State League standing committee sitting around a table with the NPL standing committee and nutting out a solution, a clear path and understanding as to how things will work at the end of the 2017 must be confirmed before a ball is kicked at the start of the season.
The climax to an exciting season in Division One was marred by so much uncertainty around the grounds as to what the real outcomes would be, depending on the results. If the game is to move forward this should not happen, and everyone, clubs, players, coaches and fans should know exactly what the situation is going into the last game.