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HomeSportsA-League second division: How will Football Australia's National Second Tier be structured?

A-League second division: How will Football Australia’s National Second Tier be structured?

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It’s exciting times for football Down Under as Football Australia begin to implement a second division to the A-League – meaning promotion and relegation will occur with the nation’s top leagues.

The yet-to-be-named future league, currently titled ‘National Second Tier’ has been long been sought after by football fans in the country with the missing structure hindering the accountability of teams in the top division and aspirations of clubs outside the A-League.

The Sporting News explains everything you need to know about the future A-League second division.

What is the proposed A-League second division – currently titled ‘National Second Tier’

  • A new football league that sits between the A-League and National Premier Leagues in the Australian football structure
  • Possible March 2024 start date
  • Promotion and relegation between the new league and A-League will be considered once the structure matures
  • Home and Away league featuring 10-16 teams playing 24-36 games – including a finals series
  • Teams successful in gaining entry to the National Second Tier would have to leave their current competition
  • Requirements for participating clubs will include:
  1. All players need to be given professional contracts and paid salaries for 52 weeks of the year.
  2. A team of staff that work ‘off-field’ throughout the entire year.
  3. Have the ability to invest and operate a full talent development pathway at their club.
  4. Have access to high-quality facilities for match days throughout the entire year.

Since the start of the A-League in 2005, there has been growing momentum for a second division to be introduced underneath the main competition – that will eventually allow a promotion-relegation system in Australia.

The proposed league will sit in the structure between the A-League and the National Premier Leagues, which is the current second tier, however there is no link between the two competitions.

Current structure dictates  A-League teams can’t be relegated, meaning teams near the bottom of the standings don’t have much to play as the season progresses, making for ‘dead rubber’ matches.

Conversely, clubs outside the A-League structure in the National Premier Leagues have had no pathway to gain promotion to the top division, aside from the minute chance of securing a licence.

Having promotion and relegation across two divisions will mean clubs can set goals to reach the top of Australian football, but can also be punished with relegation if they don’t meet on-field standards.

When will the A-League second division being implemented?

There is currently no set date for the implementation of an A-League second division, however Football Australia said it could start as early as March 2024.

Football Australia currently taking expressions of interest for the teams wanting to be involved, with the process opening on February 3 and closing on March 3.

Once all submissions are in, Football Australia will then shortlist clubs in April and June to be involved in the second division and issue them a Request for Proposal – which will allow parties to detail how they can be a part of the new league.

The governing body will assess bids and make recommendations through June and August, before the process will be completed around August/September.

What will happen if not enough teams apply to compete in the A-League second division?

In the event of a lack of teams to make up a second division, Football Australia has indicated they would consider a ‘Champions League’ style competition involving 16 or 32 teams instead.

There is little details about this option but it will use the National Premier Leagues to determine which teams compete.

What Football Australia said about the A-League second division

“Developing a national second tier competition is a key component of our 15-year vision for the game and our efforts to reconnect and realign Australian football competitions,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson said.

“Australian football has gone on a journey of transformation over the last two years, and this is the latest example of us bringing our vision for the game to life.

“In 2022, we did extensive financial and competition modelling followed by a series of consultations with clubs and other stakeholders across the game. 

“We know from this process that there is a lot of interest in a national second tier so we expect that we will receive a strong number of responses in this first EOI phase.

“Some of these clubs have a rich history in Australian football and aspire to grow and compete at a national level.

“The national second tier will now provide a platform for these aspirational clubs and to be a part of a connected football pyramid in the long term.

“With football booming in Asia, our national teams competing strongly on the world stage and as the largest team participation base in Australian sport, this is the right time to create a national second tier.

“We look forward to the process we have now launched and working collaboratively with all stakeholders and interested parties in building a successful National Second Tier and kicking the league off as early as March 2024.”


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