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Relegation undermining NPL

WHEN Northern NSW Football entered the National Premier Leagues last season, relegation and promotion was retained at the behest of clubs.
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Now, not even halfway through the three-year agreement clubs signed off on, most surely can’t wait to be rid of the concept.

The traditional battle at both ends of the table has long been seen as a vital and compelling aspect in football competitions worldwide, and in most cases it works.

But under Football Federation Australia’s NPL framework, it is counter-productive and, quite simply, ridiculous.

The NPL was designed to create a truly underpinning group of competitions to the A-League and, in doing so, bring a new level of sophistication to state leagues.

At the top of the wish-list was an improved junior development system.

In creating this, the NPL demanded better coaching accreditation at club level and the fielding of youth teams right down to under 13s.

Great initiatives, but also expensive and challenging moves for all clubs, regardless of their previous junior set-ups.

Clubs and coaches have spent thousands for coaching courses, and countless volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring it all together.

These efforts only increase the devastation for the club annually shunted back to the second tier purely on the efforts of their first-grade side.

Valentine and Lake Macquarie are the clubs most recently relegated from the top tier, and those doing the hard yards at youth level have been left to count the cost as their brightest prospects understandably leave for the shot at NPL competition.

The NPL demands clubs build their youth program, but it also attempts to curb recruitment spending at the senior end with a player points system. In NNSW, however, the success, and future, of clubs is based solely on the annual performance of only one senior team.

While the NPL regulations aim to rein in outlandish spending on senior players, the NNSW model of promotion-relegation has only fuelled the mad grab for top talent each year as clubs frantically battle to avoid the drop. And who can blame them?

Many clubs who have kept to a sensible budget are now stretching themselves thinner and thinner to keep pace, and the end result can only be destructive for the local game.

The NPL concept calls for a licensing system to avoid this very problem. Under the original NPL recommendations, clubs apply for licences of three or five years. The clubs who best satisfy the NPL criteria are admitted with the knowledge they have time to safely build all aspects of their operation, especially their juniors.

Isn’t this what we all want?

As it stands, NPL youth registration fees, which are undeniably expensive when compared to those in many other Hunter sports, will surely make their way into ballooning first-team budgets, if they are not already.

What a waste.

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