The Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) has backed the National Second Division to run as a single competition as opposed to a conference system.
A 12-team league – with room to grow to 16 with promotion from the eight National Premier Leagues – was pushed as the preferred model in the AAFC report released on Monday.
Greater commercial appeal and the opportunity to see ‘the best play the best’ were some of the major factors in the single competition format being preferred.
‘’Clearly we want the best to play the best which would create the most revenue and generate the most interest,’’ AAFC Chair Nick Galatas told FNR.
‘’We think, and the clubs think: a national competition which creates and allows matches between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and other places – which are the big revenue spinners – as well as teams from Perth or Hobart or elsewhere who come in the league to play teams from all major centres and not being lumped with one of the other – which is that approach.
‘’It’s hard to know what a conference is. In my experience in Australia, we don’t have other specific examples of this. We know they have them in the US with their eastern and western seaboards, which both have massive populations, but we don’t have that in Australia.’’
The competition would be administered by Football Australia, who will ultimately have the final say over which clubs are given entry into the initial division.
While the report acknowledges a conference system may reduce travel costs, it suggests it would see ‘lower commercial benefits’ due to clubs ‘not participating in a truly national competition.’
In addition to this two-conference system, a third option not too dissimilar to the current NPL system – with the only difference being an extended finals series – was also considered.
Mr Galatas believes adopting a conference system would be ‘’lowering’’ the bar for existing NPL clubs looking to make the leap up.
‘’The other [concept] which has been floated or hinted at by Football Australia is the conferences being the NPLs and growing from there. We feel we can do better than that and when we were a member of a NSD steering committee what was being discussed there was being bigger and better,’’ he said.
‘’We were effectively being pushed along to raise the bar for our clubs and we were a bit uncomfortable, at the time, that the bat was raised too high. So now we’re a bit surprised to hear about conferences which would be lowering it.
‘’Our attitude is and our approach is the national is the best and highest revenue producing – it’s the one we want.’’
The AAFC hopes to see the National Second Division’s inaugural season kick off by late 2022 or mid-2023 – with no preference over a summer or winter competition.
The report also outlined an ambition to see the establishment of a Women’s NSD by 2025, with a women’s football committee be an ‘integral part of the overall governance’ of this competition.
‘’We see a need for the women’s game to have a level above the WNPL’s that links with the W-League. We need more material and more input from the clubs to make this happen but we’ve certainly seen a great demand from our WNPL teams for the same thing.
‘’A second division might look different initially that might be a conference model….but we are looking and proposing for a women’s second division to start a few years after the men’s.’’