The bold plan to transform Australian football by 2029

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Football Federation chairman Chris Nikou caused a stir in Australian football by admitting promotion and relegation would not happen before 2034. But is it possible to transform the game before then?

"The current A-League clubs have a licence until 2034 so as I stand here now promotion and relegation earlier than that is not likely.”

With one statement, FFA Chairman Chris Nikou sent football fans on social media into meltdown last Sunday.

I initially tweeted that this was a big revelation but in hindsight I probably shouldn’t have been so dramatic.

It’s common knowledge that every current A-League club has a license agreement that runs until 2034.

What surprised me and the majority of Australian football fans was that FFA Board Member Remo Nogarotto publicly questioned the comments of his chairman on social media, forcing the governing body to then send out an official statement clarifying Nikou’s comments. 

All of this occurred in the space of three hours in response to Nikou's candid statement at the inaugural Football Writers Festival at Jamberoo Pub. 

Nikou was telling the truth and it hurt.

Honesty and transparency is something which has been severely lacking in Australian football for a long time.

Fifteen years is a long time but is that the timeframe we need to ensure promotion and relegation can work in Australia?

Judging by the response of fans, 2034 is too far away.

It’s up to us as the football community to put pressure on the FFA and professional clubs to stop them from looking out for their own interests and bring forward a promotion and relegation system.

Nothing will change before 2034 unless everyone starts working together in the best interests of football in this country.

We need a united vision for our future.

So what about 2029? Surely we can all work together to build a new pyramid for Australian football in a decade.

I know so many of you reading this will argue this still isn’t soon enough. But we can’t rush this. 

By taking our time, we can ensure football is on the same level as the AFL, NRL and cricket by the end of the 21st century.

To begin this process, we must align the playing calendar for all levels of football in this country.

All of our competitions need to run at the same time if we’re ever to have a successful promotion and relegation system. In my opinion, it can’t work otherwise.

So here's how we can get this rebuilding process underway.


STEP 1 – ADJUSTING THE CALENDAR
Close your eyes and imagine the year is 2029.
• The Australian football season begins in February and runs until November.
• The A-League, ‘A-League 2’ & W-League competitions start in the first week of February and run until November.
• The FFA Cup preliminary rounds start in February/March with the final to be held in November.
• The National Premier Leagues start in February/March and end in September like they currently do.
• Association and junior football continues to start in March/April and end in September.
Every four years, a mid-season break is held to coincide with the FIFA World Cup.
This calendar will also ensure the competition never clashes with the AFC Asian Cup.

STEP 2 – FIXING THE FORMATS OF OUR ELITE COMPETITIONS

A-LEAGUE – TIER 1
• 16 clubs.
• 30 game season.
• Each team plays each other twice.
• Top 6 make finals.
• Last-placed club to face ‘A-League 2’ winner in a promotion/relegation playoff.

A-LEAGUE 2 – TIER 2
• 16 clubs (ideal number) mix of new clubs targeting new markets and existing NPL clubs.
• 30 game season.
• Each team plays each other twice.
• No finals series, first pass the post wins the league.
• Winner faces the last-placed A-League team in a promotion/relegation playoff.
• Last-placed club in ‘A-League 2’ relegated back to respective National Premier League competition if NPL National Champion is eligible to be promoted.

NATIONAL PREMIER LEAGUES – TIER 3 
• To help save costs, all A-League and ‘A-League 2’ clubs have their Under-23’s/reserves, Under-20’s & Under-18’s teams play in the NPL 1 competition of their respective state. 
• All National Premier League competitions across Australia run for 22 rounds, followed by a finals series. 
• The winners from each state qualify for the NPL National Finals series.
• Winner of the NPL Finals series is eligible to be promoted to ‘A-League 2’ if it meets requirements. 
• Current promotion and relegation rules continue to apply.

W-LEAGUE – TIER 1
• 16 clubs (ideal number). These 16 clubs will ideally align with the 16 A-League clubs. 
• 30 game season.
• Each team plays each other twice.
• Top 6 make finals.
• Last-placed club to face ‘W-League 2’ winner in a promotion/relegation playoff. 

W-LEAGUE 2 – TIER 2
• 16 clubs (ideal number). These 16 clubs will ideally align with the 16 A-League - Tier 2 clubs.
• 30 game season.
• Each team plays each other twice.
• No finals, series, first pass the post wins the league.
• Winner faces the last-placed W-League team in a promotion/relegation playoff.
• Last-placed relegated back to respective National Premier League competition.

MEN’S FFA CUP – ALL TIERS
• A-League clubs enter at the Round of 64.
• Open draw for the entire competition.

WOMEN’S FFA CUP – ALL TIERS
• Mandatory entry for all W-League’ and W-League 2 clubs.
• Optional entry for all NPL & association clubs.

 

This new pyramid ensures that any club in Australia can aspire to win the A-League or W-League.

Football in this country is never going to reach its potential until all levels of the sport are unified.

The disconnect between the highest and lowest tiers of football in this country is so vast.

If that isn’t corrected in the coming years, the sport will never reach its potential.

It’s time we dreamed big together.