It’s no secret that I prefer watching the highest level of men’s football available. Hence the sole reason I formed Waikato FC back in 2003, was with the intention of winning one of the eight NZFC franchises put up on offer by New Zealand Football, so that I could watch the best of domestic football in my own back yard. I lied about the pathway for young players!
Conversely, I have since bemoaned the fact that the NZFC / ASB Premiership is a two horse race with only Auckland City FC and Waitakere United making any impact in New Zealand’s domestic top flight competition during its first decade.
The irony is that I had thought my own franchise would have been competitive enough to win the competition. Nope – got close once. Waikato FC’s best season was the inaugural NZFC season in 2004/05 where we placed third.
I’m still happy to actively help the current incarnation – WaiBOP United – because I still believe in supporting the team in the area you live in, but I’m increasingly becoming bored with the predictabililty of the ASB Premiership itself. Watching your side just make up the numbers is killing it for me as a fan. I like to win stuff. Making up the numbers is something I just don’t have time for.
And so, whilst about to photograph the 2014 Melville United Northern League Division One promotion winning side (semi-naked too by the way – see www.melvilleunited.co.nz) at Hamilton Boys High School last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to congratulate Melville United coach Steve Williams on the promotion back to the Northern Premier League.
It was a casual conversation with Williams who replied that he actually found the competition was becoming boring and stale. He preferred a top four at the end of the season. Fair enough, but it did get me thinking that if he was bored as a coach and I was bored as a fan, perhaps now is a good time to liven up our domestic winter competition by inserting a new level into the pyramid.
I am of course suggesting revisiting the old North Island Soccer League concept from the 1999 season. You now see what the title heading this article is leading.
A few well-run winter clubs out there have aspirations of being a leading club in New Zealand. I know Melville United is one of them. Currently you become a leading club in New Zealand by either winning the Chatham Cup, or by being declared the winner of the Northern, Central, Mainland or Southern Premier Leagues.
I am going to suggest that a bunch of like-minded clubs MAY be interested in rising above the currently premier league system in the North Island, by forming a North Island Football Superleague (NIFS).
The idea being that this competition runs over the winter season and that it consists of 12 teams geographically spread for the inaugural season of the competition, but with the scope to develop a life of its own by offering promotion to the winners of the Northern and Central Premier League winners, with the bottom two NIFS club sides relegated back to the league below.
Would you find it an exciting prospect to watch a league made up of these clubs?
East Coast Bays
Napier City Rovers
Palmerston North Marist
Now this is just a list I’ve knocked up off the top of my head. The teams could differ. Put your own in if you must. It’s not a definitive selection. But looking at the above, you now have four Auckland teams, four Wellington teams, two from Hamilton and the best from Palmerston North and Napier.
Cross regional matches against sides that rarely play each other. Yes, I think I may have given myself an erection! This league would interest me. There’s a cost involved travel-wise of course but what if each side paid an entry fee of $15,000, to give you a pot of $180,000. A percentage is allocated towards bus travel across the league (clubs will have to fund additionally) with the remainder put into a prize pool. The idea being to make it as cost effective as possible but with say the competition winning side getting $15,000 (effectively their entry fee back). It sounds very Roger Wilkinson-esque….which it actually is.
Of course there can be tweaking here and there, as some clubs would like to fly to games, but make it their responsibility to cover this. New Zealand NBL basketballers sometimes have two matches over a weekend and they travel all over the show in minivans so if they can do it, it proves it can be done.
So I’m putting it out there to see if this concept has any legs.
I know I am rapidly tiring of two teams dominating the ASB Premiership in the summer, and would be excited at the prospect of a North Island Football Superleague running in the winter. Fortnightly trips to Auckland in winter are pretty bloody boring. A winter weekend in Napier for football. Yeah, that’s a bit of me.
[Grant Stantiall is (amongst other things) a football icon in the Waikato region, a Norwich City and Melville United tragic, a former football administrator, and an avid football photographer whose stunning work can be found on his Flickr account where he has enjoyed over a million views. He’s also a must-follow Twitterer via his @thekiwicanary handle.]
Categories: Other Football Topics
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/