For generations the concept of a second tier of professional football in Australia has been discussed in hushed tones in the back of pubs and with callous optimism at backyard barbecues. Nothing has piqued the interest of Aussie football fans quite like the concept of promotion and relegation and the promise of further growth to the game that a second division would provide. Now Australian fans can rejoice, it looks like the dream will finally come to fruition.
Football Australia has announced the creation of a national second division. The league is currently known under its working title as ‘The Championship’. It will be positioned between the existing structure of the A-League and the National Premier Leagues (NPL). Featuring 10-16 teams, with hopes that it will eventually be strong enough for promotion and relegation to be introduced in the A-League.
James Johnson, the CEO of Football Australia, expressed excitement about the future of the league in a statement. “Australian football has undergone a journey of transformation over the last two years and the establishment of a national second tier which reconnects and realigns Australian football competitions is an important element of Football Australia’s 15-year vision for the game.”
32 football clubs across Australia have expressed interest in joining the burgeoning league. With applications closing last weekend. The interested teams are located across every state and territory except the Northern Territory. Geographical diversity was a key point of pride for Johnson. “It is also pleasing to see that we have received submissions from right across Australia, demonstrating that our football clubs have a deep desire and aspiration to compete at a national level,” he said.
????????????????????????????????????: These are the 32 teams who have expressed interest in joining Australia’s National Second Division! ????????⚽️— KEEPUP (@keepupau) March 6, 2023
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Football Australia’s higher ups will now assess and deliberate on the expressions of interest to create a shortlist of contenders for the coveted league licenses. Before selecting 10-16 teams to take part in the leagues inaugural season, which is expected to begin as early as March next year. “We knew there would be great interest and we are thrilled with the calibre of clubs which have expressed their interest.” Johnson said.
Teams have to pass a set of criteria to be eligible to join the new league. All players on the team must be paid a salary on a professional contract. Teams need the capacity to invest in youth development programs. And will also need access to high-quality facilities for training and matches for the entire year.
It is hoped that the second division will eventually have enough quality for promotion and relegation with the A-League to be introduced. Under the current structure, A-League teams cannot be relegated. This provides a safety net for the league’s worst teams. As there is no punishment for teams sitting at the bottom of the table, late season games tend to become meaningless for players and uninspiring for fans.
In a surprise development, rugby league team the Cronulla Sharks have backed their local counterparts Sutherland Sharks FC in a joint venture bid to join the second division. With the rugby league team’s financial backing and existing infrastructure, the Sutherland Sharks could be the safest bet to land a place in the nascent league.
Clubs Interested In Joining the Second Division
ACT: Canberra Croatia FC. Gungahlin United FC.
NSW: APIA Leichhardt FC. Blacktown City FC. Fraser Park FC. Marconi Stallions FC. Rockdale Ilinden FC. Sutherland Sharks FC/Cronulla Sharks. Sydney Olympic FC. Sydney United 58 FC. Wollongong Wolves FC. Valentine FC.
Queensland: Brisbane City FC. Brisbane United FC. Gold Coast Knights FC. Gold Coast United FC. Olympic FC. Peninsula Power FC. Sunshine Coast FC Fire.
South Australia: Adelaide City FC. Football SA. Playford City Soccer and Community Club.
Tasmania: South Hobart FC.
Victoria: Avondale FC. Bentleigh Greens SC. Brunswick Juventus FC. Green Gully SC. Heidelberg United FC. Melbourne Knights FC. Preston Lions FC. South Melbourne FC.
Western Australia: Spearwood Dalmatinac/Cockburn City SC.