National Premier League (NPL) clubs in all states and the ACT have voted with their feet in support of a national second division football competition with the creation of the AAFC Championship Partner Group involving 30 clubs across Australia.
AAFC launched its concept discussion paper for a Championship competition in October 2017.
“Since that time, we’ve been encouraged by the support for a Championship within the football community – support that has continued to grow,” said AAFC Chairman, Nick Galatas.
He said the level of support is reflected in the number of clubs who have joined the Championship Partner Group.
“The Championship is about creating stronger clubs and expanding the football footprint throughout our country for the benefit of our entire sport,” Galatas said.
“The oldest club in the Partner Group was established in the 19th century and another two early in the 20th century, while the youngest club was established in this century. That says so much about the longevity and popularity of our sport in this country.
“Of surprise to many, perhaps, are that the three oldest clubs are from Newcastle, Hobart and Brisbane.”
Galatas said AAFC has worked diligently with key football stakeholders including representatives of Football Federation Australia (FFA), the state member federations, Professional Footballers Australia and the A-League clubs over the past three years to consider the most appropriate options for a Championship model and will continue to do so.
“We are grateful for their willingness to discuss a way forward and how we can help build the game together.
“I particularly want to thank Remo Nogarotto and James Johnson from the FFA for their support, as well as other key football stakeholders such as the Golden Generation led by Craig Moore, Joseph Carrozzi, Danny Townsend, Joe Mirabella, the PFA, Football Coaches Association and Women in Football, all of whom have strongly supported the idea of a national second tier competition.
Galatas said that the AAFC considers it is now time to put words into action and the Championship Partner Group has been established comprising clubs from all states as well as the ACT who will work together to finalise a detailed design report for ultimate FFA Board approval.
“Recently, we had a national Zoom conference with club representatives and briefed them on our work in getting a Championship competition going. As well as working with our Partner Group, we will be consulting FFA and key stakeholders as we complete our report,” Galatas said.
The aspects of the Championship model that need to be finalised involve national vs conference-based competition, timing, player squads, the relationship with football academies, facilities, corporate governance and promotion and relegation.
“Obviously, promotion and relegation is a hot button issue for many in the football community from a range of perspectives. Establishing a thriving and true second tier is a necessary pre-condition, so we’re helping to put it in place.
“AAFC’s view is that we cannot be properly considered as a ‘football nation’ without it and having it in place is our ultimate objective. While promotion and relegation with the A-League will hopefully occur little later, we aim for it to start immediately with the NPL below,” Galatas said.
“We also recognise a need to get the code back on track and financially viable and that is what we believe the Championship will help in achieving. Connecting clubs from bottom-to-top and top-to-bottom will help unite the game which will help it achieve its potential.”
He said that AAFC wants all football clubs in Australia to be the best they can be and want to be, at whatever level they want to, and are able to, play.
“More football at a higher level is good for players, good for coaches, good for supporters, and gives sponsors and broadcasters more opportunity to be engaged in the game from grassroots to elite levels.
“The Championship is a critical element of helping to grow football for the long-term benefit of the entire football community.
“Through the Championship Partner Group, the clubs are taking a leadership role in making it happen and making a real difference to football in Australia for the long term,” Galatas said.
A list of the 30 Partner Group clubs, each of whom has financially contributed towards the next steps, and when they were established, is attached.