Promotion before relegation
Chairman of Townsville's Northern Fury, Rabieh Krayem, puts forward a plan for promotion/relegation based starting with promotion only for the first five years.18 October 2016 | Rabieh Krayem
Like any football fan, I’m as keen as mustard for two things: expansion of the A-League and promotion and relegation.
But, as a Chairman of an NPL club which was previously in the A-League, I also have empathy with the A-League Chairmen and CEOs when they say they can’t afford for their investment in the A-League to be compromised by possible relegation.
I can understand that. Over the 11 seasons of the A-League, the combined losses of the A-League clubs – excluding NZ Knights, Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury – must be in the vicinity of between $200 million and $325 million. While all of the today’s A-League owners are in the ‘millionaire’ class, that is not the same as being a ‘billionaire’ and those are big losses to incur and write-off, especially when there are mouths to feed, businesses to keep afloat and families to support.
Unfortunately, the reluctance of the A-League owners is reinforced by an FFA Board that, being mostly comprised of non-footballing bean-counters, is not known for making football decisions.
But sometimes in football, as in business and in life, you have to take an acceptable risk.
And this is what I think could be one such acceptable risk.
Instead of promotion/relegation, let’s start with promotion only.
We establish a Second Division comprised of, say, 20 NPL clubs that aspire to something bigger and better as long as they meet specific criteria. The only pre-determined outcome of the 20 clubs is that there is at least one from each state and territory and at least five of them be from regional Australia.
At the end of season 1, the top two placed teams are promoted to the A-League. No relegation takes place – just promotion.
That has the advantage of not only making the new Second Division meaningful, but also expanding the A-League which I believe is desperately needed. If one of the two top-placed teams don’t wish to advance to the A-League then it can be offered to the third-placed team.
At the end of season 2, the same thing happens – but this time only the top team advances to the A-League. This continues until the end of the fifth season at which time there are 16 teams in the A-League. In the meantime, the Second Division would not have teams replaced until season 4 to ensure that it also has 16 teams by the end of year 5.
The existing NPL competition could continue as it is, as a de facto Third Division, with the two grand finalists earning promotion to Second Division after the fifth season also.
From season 6, full promotion and relegation can be introduced across the A-League, the B-League and the national NPL competition.
What is the benefit of this?
- It expands the A-League gradually and naturally with clubs that already exist.
- It introduces a meaningful Second Division.
- It introduces promotion.
- It gives the existing ten A-League clubs a guaranteed five more years – and a massive head-start!
- It gives a timeframe and lead-time for the introduction of full promotion and relegation.
- And in language that I know the FFA and its Board are focused on – it gives more content for the next television deal.
Sometimes big, bold decisions have to be made.
The FFA can talk up the first two rounds of the A-League as much as he can – and good on them – but, at the end of the day, television networks will also be looking at matches such as last Sunday’s game between Newcastle and Brisbane as much as the Sydney and Melbourne derbies, and counting up how many hours of content the game can provide.
Is there a cost to this?
Of course there is. But I’d make five points.
First, FFA are getting $5 million from FIFA each year, at least until 2019 while Gianni Infantino is President, that they hadn’t previously budgeted on.
Second, the FFA also needs to review its cost structure and look at their own backyard to get greater savings. For example, based on the cost structure in their last annual report (less Asian Cup costs), a 5% across-the-board saving would realise $5.23 million to contribute to this activity.
Third, there are many NPL clubs who are willing, able and have the financial capacity to be part of this now.
Fourth, there’s the old maxim that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I think that’s where the game is at. It’s all very well to have fun marketing campaigns that enthuse the already-enthusiastic supporters, but not everybody has a team because there is no team (literally), and we need to broaden the national footprint. (On that note, Yoshi – come visit us in Townsville!)
Finally, there may even be a sponsor out there who’s willing to support such an initiative. For example, without putting the heat on the City Football Group, doesn’t the ‘Etihad Australian B-League’ sound okay to you?
As an example of the potential for sponsorship, we at Northern Fury put in a submission to include our women’s team in the Women’s NPL competition from 2017. We were asked by Football Queensland to contribute $35,000 towards the travel costs. The first sponsor we spoke to offered to contribute $50,000! (We’re waiting to hear whether our bid is successful, but of course it should be if FQ is serious about women’s football and regional football!).
In summary, my plan is:
- Let’s establish a Second Division of 20 teams.
- Let’s promote top two teams from Second Division to A-League at end of year 1; and one team thereafter for another four years to take the A-League to 16 teams.
- Let’s replace the promoted team from the Second Division at the end of year 3 to maintain it at 16 teams.
- Let’s introduce promotion and relegation from year 6.
- Let’s use the existing NPL competition as a Third Division with the two grand finalists promoted to the Second Division from the end of year 6.
Having talked to owners, CEOs and club executives in the A-League and NPL, I think this is do-able.
It would give clubs something to aspire to; young players something to aspire to; and it would be an enormous boost to football in Australia that no other code could offer.
It’s a five year plan that would see a Second Division, an NPL-based Third Division, and promotion and relegation with the A-League with effect from the 2022-23 season.
What’s stopping us?
#prorel, a-league expansion, second division