Five years ago the NPL system was introduced following the National Competitions Review (in 2012). Five years after its birth there are calls for another review of the NPL system itself, this time from the clubs themselves.

The representative body of NPL clubs in Australia, the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) has recommended that the NPL system should undergo a national review under the leadership of the FFA, and following which the FFA should take over the overall responsibility and directorship of the NPL systems.

In an extensive Report titled “Five Years of the NPL: A clubs’ Perspective”, released early this week, the AAFC seeks to report on the NPL clubs’ concerns about the NPL system, and raise issues surrounding the NPL system that has affected many clubs, as well as acknowledging the value of the NPL system.

The report was compiled following feedback and discussions with NPL club representatives who attended a series of roadshows across the country.

During our national consultations, there were three recurring themes raised with us,” said AAFC Chairman, Rabieh Krayem.

“The high cost of junior fees, the high cost of coaching education, and the role of the NPL competition in elite player development. This latter point includes the thorny issue of compensation, especially in the light of the relatively recent establishment of A-League academies.”

“Our members are also concerned about the notion of ‘elite’ pathway development,” Krayem explained.

“The notion has been diluted by the large number and rapid expansion of NPL clubs and the inclusion of HAL teams in youth and senior NPL competitions. The original objectives of the NPL are not being met and there is a strong disconnect within football between NPL clubs, the FFA and state-based member federations. Put bluntly, AAFC’s member clubs are increasingly and alarmingly disillusioned with the direction of, and their role in, the NPL competition.

“Yet there is significant intellectual and other capital that exist within the NPL clubs that is being untapped and which our members would like to see utilised and appreciated,” said Krayem.

The report acknowledges the intent of the NPL system to improve standards in club management, governance and facilities, as well as youth coaching, in order to get them to deliver Elite Player development pathways. The report adds that many NPL clubs support the national NPL brand, the national NPL finals series and the FFA Cup competition introduced along with the NPL system.

However the AAFC report also says many clubs are concerned that the Elite Pathway Development notion, has overshadowed the club’s own objectives. They also point to a lack of consultation with clubs, a dilution of contribution to Elite Pathways due to factors such as too many teams and the introduction of A-League youth teams. They also raise issues involving the financial and time burdens placed on clubs and parents in meeting NPL criteria and requirements.

The report offers three general recommendations in response to their findings.

These include:

1.       Retain and improve the NPL

2.       The FFA to form and lead a working group of key stakeholders to undertake a comprehensive national review of the NPL.

3.       Following the Review, for the FFA to be responsible for overall direction and oversight of NPL, whilst implementation may be left to Member Federations.

Whether or not the FFA takes up these recommendations may depend in large part on whether or not it relinquishes control of the A-League. In addition, if an independently run national second tier competition is eventually introduced, this could enable the FFA to take up responsibility for directing and overseeing the NPL system.

A complete version of the report, can be viewed on: