There are many people in Australia who do not like the finals format used in sport around the country, there are others who simply find the ever changing formats hard to follow.
There is definitely a place for finals, but one has to ask whether there is merit in having half the teams in the competition in the finals series, as this can only be interpreted as rewarding mediocrity.
If there was confusion before, there is likely to be more in football circles with the proposed format of the National Premier Leagues Finals. The NPL is a restructure of the game at semi-professional level to satisfy promises made to the Asian Football Confederation by the Football Federation of Australia. The NPL is to be the official second tier competition to the Hyundai A-League.
Western Australia will commence its NPL competition in early March 2013. The team that wins the home and away league season will be crowned Premiers, but the team that wins the expanded finals series contested between the top six teams will be crowned the Champions.
The Champions are the recognised overall winners, as in most Australian competitions. Yet in a strange twist the Champions will not be the team playing off for the title of NPL Champions of Australia, as waiting for the results of the finals series will apparently take too long in order to arrange flights and accommodation. IT could however also mean that the Premiers if they progressed in both competitions would be faced with a dilemma as to which final to play in? Sounds like a well thought through situation that will really enhance the game.
So the State Champions will not play for the National Championship, the Premiers will and they could in fact be crowned Champions of Australia but not Champions in their own state. If that makes sense and is indeed the best outcome for the game, can someone explain how.
It will be interesting to hear the AFC’s view on this as the FFA insisted that the Grand Final winners were the Champions of the A-league and they must be recognised as that and not the Premier’s Plate winners. They were the team to be rewarded with a place in the Asian Champions League, – although two teams were in fact given places – yet now the very rules they fought so hard for, they are changing themselves.
Of course should the Premier team win and in time have the opportunity of being promoted to the A-League, and let us not forget this is why the NPL has been created, to satisfy AFC that Australia has a second tier and there is promotion and relegation, even if that may not eventuate immediately. There could be legal issues which would follow, as a team that was not the ‘champion’ under the competition rules has prevented one who is from gaining that opportunity to play in the A-League. The wording of the competition rules is going to have to be looked at very carefully from the beginning, and not changed when someone challenges them.
Sadly once again we see an example of something not being thought through and the game opening itself up for legal challenges. If more people with an understanding of the game were involved in these decisions it may be extremely beneficial.