Football Federation Victoria (FFV) has revealed plans to implement sweeping reforms to its top tiers for the 2020 season that will radically alter the shape of the state’s elite competitions whilst aiming to improve pathways and reduce costs for its junior player base.
Announced on Tuesday afternoon, the proposed changes will see the senior Victorian National Premier League (NPL) split from its existing two-tiered structure of NPL and NPL2 East and West into a three-tiered competition consisting of a top-tier NPL league and as yet unbranded Victorian Premier League (VPL) second and third tiers.
While U20 and U18 squads will remain tied to the performance of their clubs’ respective senior sides when it comes to promotion and relegation, younger sides fielded by clubs will then be decoupled from the performance of the men’s under the proposals.
It sets the stage for a tantalising 2019 NPL Victoria season that will determine the makeup of the three new tiers.
As is custom, the bottom two finishers in the NPL will be automatically relegated and replaced with the winners of the Eastern and Western NPL2 conferences – with a promotion and relegation playoff between the third bottom side in the NPL and the winner of a playoff between the two second placed finishers in NPL2 also set to occur.
Following the determination of the makeup of the top tier, the top six finishers from both the NPL2’s East and Western conferences, including the newly relegated sides, will form a 12 team second tier.
The remaining eight sides – four from either conference – will then be joined by the top two finishers from State League 1 Northwest and State League 1 Southeast to create Victoria’s new third tier.
Due to the changes, there would be no relegation from the top three tiers of the existing State Leagues and an introduction of a restriction of four Visa players on the senior team match day team sheet in State League One in 2019.
The reduction of the number of NPL branded clubs from 34 to 14 will, according to the FFV, enhance the value of the NPL brand to the clubs that attain it whilst reducing the resource requirements on clubs below the top tier who no longer have to fulfil certain NPL mandated requirements.
The proposed reduction in the length of the VPL season by six weeks alone is estimated to save clubs an estimated $48k per year.
Removing the NPL branding from the second and third tiers will also enable the FFV to seek sponsorship and commercial partnerships for the competitions without certain FFA criterions. The NPL went without a naming rights sponsor in 2018 after previously being sponsored by the Sony PlayStation 4.
In junior football, the review would separate the fates of club’s junior sides from that of their senior counterparts – meaning that clubs with strong junior sides will no longer have teams relegated thanks to poor performances of the senior side – and enable clubs that will be losing NPL branding for their senior sides to retain it for the younger groups.
Under the proposed changes, the junior NPL competition will include U13, U14, U15 & U16 teams only; with U12 teams incorporated into the current FFV U12 community competitions that will be revised to have a ‘like v like’ competitive structure created.
NPL junior sides would be further empowered to boost revenue by fielding unrestricted Mini Roos and Small Sided Football under the changes and be eligible to offer an unlimited number of underage sides in community leagues should they be able to provide adequate access to facilities and significantly reduce the costs of playing junior football at their clubs.
The proposed shifts mean that any community clubs gaining access to the junior NPL from 2020 will no longer be required to ‘shed’ community teams provided they can provide proper ongoing access to facilities.
For the first time, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City – who have long agitated for greater access to the junior competitions within Victoria – would be able to field U13, U14, U15 & U16 sides in Victorian football, an increase on their current allotment of Senior, U20, U18 and U15 allowances.
The newly proposed junior competition model would commence with up to 48 junior NPL programs made up of the existing 35 NPL affiliated sides and additional community clubs that apply to the FFV.
It is forecast that, once the 48 teams are confirmed, four geographic pools of 12 clubs will be created. Each pool would then play 11 qualification games. Teams that finish in the same band of positions on the ladder across the four pools would then be re-graded into newly formed ‘like v like’ leagues, which would then play a further 22 home and away games.
At season’s end, teams would return to the original geographically determined pools for the following season.
“The Men’s and Boys’ Football Competition Review is the most comprehensive project that our organisation has ever embarked upon,” FFV CEO Peter Filopoulos said.
“Thousands of Victorians have contributed to this piece of work through a survey, workshops, face to face interviews and other club-initiated interaction.
“It has produced a body of work that will position our organisation to lead the way for the sport in the nation over the coming years and better identify, nurture and improve the thousands of young players that play this game every weekend.”
With this review of NPL men’s and boys competitions complete, the FFV will now turn its attention to a review into women’s and girls football, with details of a comprehensive review promised for the near future.
The FFV’s summary of the proposals can be seen here