The National Premier League is being pushed hard by the Football Federation of Australia under the pretence that this is the way forward for the game. First and foremost it is to satisfy the AFC that Australia has a united second tier competition from which, should the team meet the A League criteria they could be promoted and replace a current A League side.
There is no doubt that some of the suggestions in the criteria to be a part of the NPL are exceptionally good for the game and should have been in place years ago. Most State League grounds in Perth could have done with a facelift, and the NPL is forcing clubs to spend that money. Which is slightly amusing as in the Football West constitution it states under ‘Objects of company’ 1.1 subsection ‘i’ “The objects for which the company is established are: to provide and maintain grounds, playing fields, materials, equipment and other facilities for Football in the State.”
In the presentation given by National Technical Director, Haan Berger he had the wording “As part of the National Competitions Review NYL teams must play in the NPL” (NYL is National Youth League).
There are again merits in such a move, but first and foremost the FFA cannot make such a stipulation, that is why we have constitutions, that is why the Crawford Report insisted that those involved in the game had a voice, precisely so that the game did not suffer dictatorial changes that suited the administration but which may not meet the best requirements of the clubs and players. These are rules as to how the game should be run and the input required before making longstanding changes. Sadly the same does not apply to the rules of competition which seem to change at will.
Part of the NPL is the criteria on which the participants will be judged and accepted. Many of these based on coaching structures and club facilities. Perth Glory Youth currently does not have a technical director – an essential part of the NPL – they do not have a ground with any facilities. Neither are they currently subject to the salary cap imposed on State Premier League clubs. Will they be?
The model proposed is that the NTC participants currently in the Premier League will all drop down one level, so the Glory Youth can step into their place. So suddenly we have a privately run professional club, participating in a semi-professional league with the League’s administrators supplying the coaches and the players for the teams below that team. You wouldn’t read about it anywhere else in the world.
This is written with tongue planted firmly in cheek, for a start the Youth League players are not on full professional contracts, and the NTC is an obvious feeder for the Glory. However it does make a mockery of the criteria.
One has to ask why would all of the state league clubs, many with a rich history, vote for one of their own to lose a place in the top league in the state for such a team? This argument will gain even more weight if the NPL is reduced to an eight team league. Surely it would be more beneficial for these players to be allocated clubs and learn their game around men? After all Perth Glory coach Alistair Edwards stated only this week when announcing that Steve McGarry had re-signed for the club as well as younger recruits Cameron Edwards and Jack Duncan, “The recent additions are in-line with generating the appropriate balance between our excellent experienced players and the up-and-coming youth.” Obviously he sees the benefit in young players playing alongside experienced older players.
At the moment not enough questions are being asked as to why this is being pushed through with such urgency? What is the rush? If it is to be done properly surely it is better that time is taken and everything is worked out properly before committing to such a major change. Remember the AFC requirement.
There is also talk that the Government will be pulling funding to the various Institutes of Sport around the country, and in particular the football programs. The reason for this is twofold, the Government has given the FFA a massive amount of funding and feels that they should run their own development programs with that money. The second is that few of these programs, that have supposedly been working with the cream of Australia’s young footballing talent, have managed to develop a steady stream of players to play in the highest leagues in Europe.
Why is this the case? There is no definite answer, but maybe the Dutch system is not the best suited to Australia. They came in and changed all of the existing structures and sadly the effect has not been as positive as many had hoped at this present time.
Caution is to be advised, once this is pushed through it will be very hard to do a u-turn. The NPL will not result in a superb league with better quality football overnight, it will take a number of years before it reaches that stage. Which begs the question can the state league/NPL afford such a move at a point in time when crowds and support are low and media coverage limited? What is the marketing plan to back this NPL up? What is going to be done to drive interest in this new brand around the country? What is the budget for promotion? What is the marketing strategy?
So many questions, but so few answers, and next to no funding. Caveat Emptor, those who buy into this beware!