Friday, September 24, 2010
The Long Winter
Instead, some thoughts on another piece of news which saw the light of day this week, but was largely buried under the weight of the Newcastle saga.
It's a major change, and the ramifications for the A-League are actually quite significant. The NSW Premier League, along with its Victorian counterpart, is the major feeder league for the A-League; the fact that it will now be conducted in tandem with the national competition will have a number of spin-offs. Firstly - and this is probably one of the factors behind the change - the Premier League clubs will no longer endure the intense frustration of losing their best young players to A-League squads (or youth squads) just as the NSWPL finals are kicking in. Such was the fate of Sydney United, for one, this year; Ante Tomic and Mirjan Pavlovic, two star performers, were whisked away just as the business end of the state league arrived.
Secondly, the phenomenon of younger players getting some extra practice in the state league when the A-League is in abeyance will disappear. A bit of a worry, since the A-League season is not really long enough (even now) for the talented teens to get the sort of competitive practice they need.
There are some advantages to alignment, of course, and one is that many of the existing anomalies of player contracts will be solved. A common state league gripe in recent years has been the "amateur" status of players in A-League youth squads, which has limited the revenue available to the NSWPL clubs. Now, at least, the lines will be clearly drawn; a player is either contracted to a state league club or on an A-League roster, without the contentious limbo-land of July and August which has been a feature of the last few years.
But the biggest concern is simply the gap between state league seasons, which will probably have a very negative impact on the NSWPL from a pure footballing point of view. Plenty of players got caught up in the hiatus between the end of the NSL and the beginning of the A-League, and the same is likely to happen at the next level down. Many players will no doubt make the jump to Asia or to competitions in other states, and the league is likely to suffer.
And...what of the fans? Winter has always been the natural time for the league, and the dwindling crowds at many clubs may be thinned out even further as punters who have other things to do in the summer are forced to make a choice.
One final thought. The following "principle", stated in the Football NSW announcement linked above:
The club relegated from the NSW Premier League will be required to participate in the NSW Super League season which immediately follows the conclusion of the NSW Premier League season.
...strikes me as utterly absurd and unworkable.
For the uninitiated, the Super League is the tacky name for the second tier competition in NSW. It will still take place in the winter.
How on earth can a promotion and relegation system work properly when seasons are out of alignment? How are clubs expected to manage their playing roster, ground rental, cash flow, and a million other issues, if they might be playing an extra twenty or so games at the conclusion of their normal season?
I heard from a good source yesterday that the driving force behind the change (as I suspected) was Sam Krslovic. And that a great many people in the know think it'll be a fiasco.