In the wake of the FFA's 'XI Principles for the future of Australian football', the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) has reiterated its calls for the speedy introduction of a national second division, as well as a major review of the structure of the game below it.
Released to the public on Thursday afternoon, the FFA’s expansive XI principles discussion paper laid out numerous proposed targets and reforms that the FFA would be seeking to implement in Australian football over the next 15 years as it emerged from the COVID-19 crisis and cast its eyes forward.
These included moving to align the A-League with the rest of Australian football’s winter-based competitions, using the 2023 Women’s World Cup as a springboard to improve women's football development, greater in-house media production and distribution, and reducing the cost of playing the game by streamlining its governance on a local, member federation and national level.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given FFA CEO James Johnson’s previous responsibilities at FIFA, the introduction of a strong domestic transfer system and positioning Australia as a top exporter of talent also played a significant role in the document.
Nonetheless, despite the numerous goals entailed within the document, the substance of how to achieve them was, sometimes deliberately, left vague.
Notable throughout was the lack of a concrete plan surrounding one of the hottest button issues of Australian football: the introduction of a National Second Division (NSD) and potential moves towards the introduction of promotion and relegation.
Though a second tier is mentioned on numerous occasions throughout the document, the careful language used throughout meant that just what relationship this competition would have with the A-League was not clear.
Verbiage deployed in section IV of the document - Create a dynamic and engaging football product by optimising competition structures to connect Australian football – in particular, appears to have rankled proponents of a NSD; advocates taking umbrage with the phrase “Consider the development of a second-tier competition”.
Johnson said that it was important to look beyond simple promotion and relegation, citing Japan's J.League and Mexico's Liga MX as examples of alternative models.
In a written response on behalf of the AAFC seen by FTBL, Chairman Nick Galatas - though noting that he was responding to a 'living' document that is subject to change - moved to see off any headwinds gathering against the introduction of a nation-wide second-tier, declaring that the unity of vision called for in the discussion paper could not be realised without unification of the game.