Melbourne Knights have unveiled their vision of a national second division in response to the white paper revealed last week by Football Federation Australia
And it specifically counters several of the key ideas raised by the FFA - and demands some wholesale changes to the way Australian football operates, including a full transfer fee system and immediate promotion and relegation.
They want a National Second Division made up of at least 12 teams from season one, earning their spot on merit, and played at the same time as the A-League in the Australian summer.
They want instant promotion and relegation for clubs to and from the NPL, with the possibility for NSD clubs to join the A-League – and A-League clubs to drop down a rung – within five years of its launch.
"Promotion into the A-League based primarily but not entirely on sporting merit should begin within five years of the NSD starting," says the Knights report.
"This would mean by winning the NSD, a club would have the right to demonstrate that it is able to meet the reasonably set and published criteria for A-League participation.
"Promotion and relegation would begin once the A-League has expanded to 14 teams.
"We reject the [FFA's] idea of phased protection with an incubation period and then promotion and relegation."
The result of promotion and relegation would also work in tandem with the A-League expansion to ensure any further new clubs added to the top tier are there purely on merit rather than geographical areas targeted by the FFA or broadcast partners.
They rejected any suggestions of the A-League clubs setting up the National Second Division as a reserve league for their own purposes and instead want to see it as a home for cream of the crop players from the existing talent pool across the NPL.
"It is obvious that there has been discussion around introducing A-league reserves teams into a NSD – an idea we reject – unless these teams were promoted into the NSD on sporting merit after the competition gets off the ground rather than through franchise nepotism," the Knights insist.
Their main concern is that the NSD should be a showcase for Australian talent rather than stacked with foreign import players continuing to impede the player pathway for young Australians.
"The advent of the A-League has caused two issues for Australian football," says the Knights report.
"Firstly, we have stopped exporting players into leagues where they have the opportunity to challenge themselves.
"We cannot expect to produce players of an international standard ‘in-house’. The path to international competitiveness is through having a greater playing pool in international leagues, especially in Europe.
"Secondly, with greater money flowing in and out of the game, it has allowed the A-League clubs the opportunity to be in the market for foreigners who aren’t necessarily adding value to the game."
Likewise, the Knights call for a limit to the FFA's involvement in the way leagues run.
"We must stress that the governing body should not concern themselves with the composition of squads or their average age but rather that squads are comprised of a majority of Australian players," says the Knights report.
"Otherwise, the end result of incubated or managed competitions in such a manner will mean that a NSD will become for the most part a glorified youth league.
"The NSD must be a serious competition with clubs afforded the freedom to choose their squads as they see fit."
Rather than clubs be forced to spend or limit their spending, they want to see market forces decide how clubs perform and their budgets – with big-spending clubs targeting the A-League, while more modest clubs tailor their ambitions...and overspenders suffering the long-term viability consequences of bad decisions.
"If clubs are foolish enough to chase glory and crash and burn they are the only ones to blame," says the Knights report.
"Understandably if there was immediate pressure on clubs and they did crash and burn, it may mean there is some blowback on FFA.
"We must also trust that the average football fan is quite intelligent and a club ceasing to exist shouldn’t have any adverse effect on how the game is perceived with the people that matter."
The Knights acknowledge the huge gap between the A-League and current NPL sides, and want the NSD to act as a proper stepping stone between the tiers.
The report adds: "There is no purpose in creating an NSD that will operate at near A-League levels for it only to create another chasm to the tier below it.
"The concept that the market will find its equilibrium is essential in understanding this principle.
"If a NSD is made up of, for example 12 clubs, with three clubs fully professional at inception, then those three clubs are likely to dominate the competition and will in a way force the other nine clubs to professionalise to be competitive."
One of the biggest proposed changes is to the transfer system. At the moment Australian clubs only receive a token payment if one of their players is signed by an A-League side.
The Knights want the system to become as open-ended as the rest of the world.
"A full transfer fee system must be consistently applied from the top to bottom within Australian football; that is from the A-league, NSD, NPL and to all the tiers below and between each other." says their report
"The transfer system would then feed into the top level of the game with a view to increase offshore transfer dollar inflows.
"The system must also allow for percentages of future transfers within Australia and overseas on top of training compensation and solidarity payment mechanisms."
They added: "The Melbourne Knights Football Club is keenly interested in participating in a National Second Division which would allow the club the opportunity to grow and meet its potential.
"It is therefore imperative for clubs that are interested in participating in such a competition put forward their own proposals with the aim of contributing to the public debate and to help shape the future competition’s framework."