NNSW NPL structure for 2020 to be revealed after next year’s grand final

2018 NPL grand final winners BroadmeadowNORTHERN NSW Football will not confirm the NPL competition structure for beyond2020 until after next year’s grand finals following a review of second-tier clubs’ ambitions for the coming licencing period.

The 11-team NNSW NPL could expand into two levels incorporating Northern League One clubs anda promotion-relegation system or stay a single tier without annual changes after athree-year licence termends following the 2019 season.

NNSWF reviewedclubs this season to gauge the status of second tier, Northern League One teams and their interest in applying for an NPL licence.Many applied for the 2017-19 period but failed to meet criteria. Lake Macquarie were added, taking theNPL to 11 clubs.

NNSWF chief David Eland said “all but a couple” of the 11-team Northern League One clubsmade it clear in the review that they intended to apply for an NPL licence.

Eland said the review includedfrank conversations with clubs about their status to potentially avoid an applicationprocess that would prove taxing on volunteers.

“This preliminary review was about giving clubs an insight into what it was going to look like in 2020 ahead of 2019, but that’s not going to be possible now,” Eland said.

“We are of the view now that we must go through the application process and review the clubs’ submissions.”

Based on the previousprocess, Eland said applications for 2020 NPL licences would open at the start of nextseason and close in July.NNSWF management would consider applications beforethe board met inSeptember to decide the structure. An announcementwould be madeafter the grand final.

“The majority of clubs in Northern League One have confirmed their intention to apply for an NPL licence, which is very encouraging,” he said.“It demonstrates clubs are committed to continuous improvement and trying to get that NPL licence.But the real test will come when we open up the application process because that’s when the club are going to have to prove to us they’ve met the criteria orprovide us with a bona fide guarantee that by the start of 2020 they’ve addressed their shortcomings.”

NNSWF had hoped to create two levels of complaint NPL clubs to revive promotion and relegation in 2017 but not enough met the standards. Promotion-relegationhad been abandoned when only two second-tier clubs met the criteria.Eland said thereturn of the system withtwo levels of NPL remained the goal.He believed the maximum number of teams for one tier was 14 and the minimum in each league across two was eight.

“What’s come through loud and clear from reviews is that all clubs recognise the merits of promotion-relegation, so that’s what the board remain focused on, but it won’t be at any cost,” he said.“They are not about to start diluting criteria and handing out licences for fun. Standards must be maintained.”

He said clubs had already been asked to providefeedback on the criteria.

“Because the criteria is largely driven by the FFA and there’s a lot of continuity around the country, Ican’t see wholesale changes but we certainly give the clubs in every licencing period the opportunity to provide feedback and propose changes,” he said.“If we think there’s merit, we go to the FFA and advocate for that change.”

As for the position of the Jets Youth in a two-tier system, he said:“The FFA’s position is that for Northern NSW to comply with our licence with the FFA, theJets Youth need to play in our top-flight competition. That’s based on the FFA’s view of the standard or our league.”

He said NNSWF would behappy to discuss with FFA theJets Youth’s statusinpromotion-relegation.

Eland also warned clubs against over-reaching in 2019 because of uncertainty about the following season.

“It is absolute folly for any club in the NPL or Northern League One to be operating outside of their means and signing players on the basis that their team’s performance in 2019 is going to have a significant impact on 2020,” he said.

“It’s just not. The criteria is crystal clear and there’s 10 elements to the criteria. It’s all weighted.If a club doesn’t meet the criteria, it doesn’t matter if they win the competition by 20 points.”