FFA CEO James Johnson says it is time to test the market for a national second tier competition in Australia. He believes it’s important to assess the level of intent and the financial capability of clubs nationwide in participating in a national second tier competition, in order to move through some of the current issues and bring it to fruition.

The way the FFA is most likely to test the market is by inviting clubs outside the A-League to submit an informal expression of interest.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Johnson said: “If we can find sufficient interest, then why not do it? I am a big believer in playing more football matches at a national level, at a higher level, because I think that will help stimulate game development.

“I don’t think five national-level competition games per week is enough – not when we’re competing internationally.

“We’re at the stage where we have a nice concept, the working group’s done some great work, and now we have to test the market.”

There is still reportedly some disagreement amongst key stakeholders as to what the minimal financial requirements on clubs would be in order to make a second tier competition viable and sustainable.

READ MORE: Al Hassan Toure shines brightly, leading Reds to Third FFA Cup win

“There’s two views – obviously we need to be pragmatic and set the player costs and the running of a club at a lower level so that more matches can be played. Then there’s another view which is we need to set it at a higher level because we need a higher product,” Johnson said.

“On one hand, we don’t want to create a competition that’s not going to add any value – it needs to be quality. But we don’t want to set the bar so high that we can’t do it, because the reality is the vast majority of countries around the world have a second-tier competition. Why is it that we can’t?”

Two major stakeholders include the AAFC (Association of Australian Football Clubs), who represent the NPL clubs nationwide, and the PFA (Professional Footballers Association). According to the Sydney Morning Herald report, the AAFC in its 2017 blueprint of the second tier competition, proposed an annual budget for participating clubs of $ 2.5 million, whereas the PFA’s proposal is believed to be more than double that amount.

In the event that not enough clubs show a strong enough expression of interest or capacity to finance their participation in a second tier national competition, Johnson has left open the possibility of expanding existing national tournaments , like the FFA Cup and the end of season NPL finals, to provide more matches at a mid-level, between the existing A-League and NPL.
“We could quite simply change the format of the FFA Cup or NPL so we have group stages instead of knockout competitions. I think we have to explore all these different avenues,” he said.

READ MORE: How the new-look Bergers prepared for challenging start to new NPL Season

However AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas, told the Sydney Morning Herald, that he believes there will be more than enough interest from suitable clubs to start up a 14-16 team league. “We think there’s easily enough, but you never know until you know – until there’s formal applications based on a formal set of criteria.”

“That’s why we’re going back and honing it a little bit to fine-tune the numbers. We’re working both ways, what the clubs can do and what has been identified by the steering committee to date as a good starting point, and working towards what is the best way to start.”