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In recent months there has been a fair bit of discussion about the introduction of promotion and relegation for the Hyundai A-League. Even FFA head honcho David Gallop has said that promotion and relegation could happen within five years.
While this is a fantastic goal to aim for, it is my personal belief that the Hyundai A-League is a fair way of this lofty goal just yet. While there are only 10 teams in the league, there are simply not enough teams to provide two sustainable leagues at this time.
When do we expand?
I propose that the A-League could split into two leagues of 8 (A-League and B-League – the names can be changed, but this is what I’m going to go with at the moment). This means that the league needs to expand to 16 teams first, and I’ve made my own recommendations about where I think the next set of clubs should be here, as well as new consortiums recently bidding for A-League clubs in their own right. I would recommend that the below steps not take place until the vast majority of clubs are financially stable.
How do we expand?
To determine which clubs go into the B-League and which teams stay in the A-League, I would suggest that the following is announced:
- Two seasons from the start of this, the FFA announces that to determine the 8 teams that stay in the A-League and the 8 teams that go into the B-League, their regular season points would be accumulated over 3 seasons starting in two seasons.
- For example, if the A-League/B-League split was to start in 2020/21, the points tally would be for seasons 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20. The FFA would announce this at the start of the 2015/16 season.
- The intention for this is to allow the clubs to make whatever preparations for players and the like. This also means that clubs could never claim that they were not aware of the change.
- The 8 teams who have the highest regular season points tally after 3 seasons stay in the A-League, the other 8 go into the B-League. The standard Hyundai A-League competition rules would apply for any teams who are on equal points after the three season.
- This would take effect from the season immediately following. Using the example at 1A, the B-League would start in 2020/21.
In terms of splitting the leagues, I would suggest that there would be one automatic promotion/relegation spot where the B League champion replaces the wooden spoon recipient in the A-League. I also believe that the fans would support the Bundesliga style model promotion and relegation play off. While the Bundesliga has a play off between third in B2 and bottom third in Bundesliga, I would suggest a play off between 2nd in B-League and 2nd bottom in A-League.
It is important that this league is also broadcast on television in some form. Given that SBS is moving into the youth market in such a big way, I believe that they could work with another broadcaster to create a good TV deal – I don’t see any reason why SBS2 could not broadcast certain games while pay TV channels like Setanta, ESPN or the creation of a football-based channel broadcast other games.
Asian Champions League
Obviously, the only opportunity for Asian Champions League games for B-League clubs would be through the FFA Cup, which I’ve had my say on here. This is standard procedure across every single league I can possible think of (think Portsmouth in the FA Cup just a few years ago or Wimbledon many years ago – thanks Daz).
Expansion of the A-League/B-League
In time, more clubs will come along to enter the Hyundai A-League/B-League. Once they meet the strict guidelines set out by the FFA for entering the competition, they would automatically enter the B-League. There would only be additional promotions into the A-League when either:
- There would be equal number of teams in both leagues; OR
- The number of teams in each league would ensure there are no byes each week/round
Football fans tend to prefer watching their team every week, rather than having a break for random weeks. However, Australians fans appear open to the idea of it more and more, given the bye weeks that have been introduced by other sports, so I’m leaving both ideas open.
The AFC requires a minimum of 33 games per season as part of their calculations when working out how many spots each country gets for Asian Champions League calculations. My model would require each team playing each other 4 times for a total of 28 games at first. Expanding to 2, 9 team leagues would result in 36 games each if playing 4 games each and then modifying appropriately from there.
In time, but probably after my life time, both the A-League and the B-League (or whatever they will be called in the future) will have 20 teams in them. At this point, plans will have to be made for a C-League, and similar thoughts will have to be considered then.
In conclusion, there’s a long way to go until I believe the FFA is ready to go before they can truly introduce promotion and relegation. It will be interesting to see how the NPL model works after a few years and I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.