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Planning the revolution while avoiding a coup d'état

by Teo Pellizzeri on Jun 14, 2011

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At last, some information on the FFA’s second-tier competition review. The excuse that has allowed stagnation and deferral to become the norm in the nation’s state leagues for far too long.

The cynic in me fears that some of the revelations in this article by News Limited’s Val Migliaccio could push the state level game further towards full-blown club-lead revolution. To summarise the points raised:

• A-League reserves will play in the state league of their respective state, in addition to the National Youth League
• Existing state league clubs will be asked to re-apply for accreditation and must meet certain criteria
• State federations were consulted in this process, no mention of state clubs being consulted

I like the theory behind the idea. The same way I like the theory behind the implementation of the The VPL class of '09summer-based Victorian Champions League (VCL), which for those of you in other states, was plotted in 2007 and started in summer 2008-09. The VCL had grand ideals to begin with, including high-priced license fees and senior teams in 12 strategically-placed zones all around Victoria. Existing winter clubs immediately saw the 12 zone “clubs” as further de-ethnicisation of the game and a not-very-well disguised attempt to usurp the existing Victorian Premier League as the main state competition.
Unsurprisingly then, plans VCL to sport senior men’s clubs from season one were abandoned by the time the league took the field.

Unlike the winter Victorian Premier League clubs, there was no financial backing or established business connections for the VCL zones to draw from.

By season three (last summer) its women’s senior competition had been abandoned after the winter clubs won the tug-of-war for players. Rather than advance the FFA-approved VCL towards being the main Victorian senior league, Football Federation Victoria has been left stuck with a troublesome winter league which has all the money and what little fans are left, and a glorified summer academy program which attracts little to no media attention around its 12 zones (even at community level) even though it ticks all the boxes for the higher-ups at the FFA. And, rightly or wrongly depending on which Ugly Parent Sydnrome sufferer you talk too, requires its juniors to participate in to be considered for state team selection.

Aspiring to a zone-based second-tier competition is possible to implement, as the Queensland QSL has shown since starting in 2008. Albeit with the competition losing three of its 11 teams between 2009 and 2010. Never mind that the geographically challenged teams (which have filled the lower half of the table) from Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Mareeba, Mackay and Townsville were basically shat on by the folding of the North Queensland Fury, the team its players would have otherwise been aiming to one day represent on the A-League stage.

So now the fearmongering, real or exaggerated, will begin about the next big push for non-ethnically aligned franchises to become the main state league clubs around the nation. Consulting the state federations in this process and not the clubs will be a major oversight by the FFA if they do genuinely aspire to a model in Victoria similar to that of Queensland.

As far as Victoria is concerned, the VCL fielding senior teams won’t be achieved without money. Given the salaries (yep, not match payments, actual full-year salaries) for some players at Victorian Premier League clubs, there’s no way franchise or zone-based state competitions can go dollar for dollar with the existing winter set-up. In fact I doubt the 12 VCL zones could match pay-roll of 12 clubs in state league three — the state’s fourth tier.

The established winter clubs in Victoria have had since the announcement of VCL in 2007 to prepare for any future battles to survive. The evidence this year it would suggest it’s impossible that the VPL clubs could break away and actually run their own competition if they don’t like the look of the FFA’s state league overhaul.

But rationality is in precious short supply a lot of the time, so without some serious massaging and an excellent sales pitch from the FFA, we can’t rule out a club rebellion.

To finish on another topic, a pleasant follow-up to an earlier blog. In this column I’d cast serious doubts over the future of the W-League and suggested that it may not return for another season later this year.
Thankfully my sources and I are wrong and the competition will return in November. Now we can all enjoy the women’s world cup with the peace of mind knowing that it won’t be the culmination of Australia taking the women’s game seriously.