I have recently caught wind of a few potential changes that are strongly rumoured to be under consideration for the NRFL following a review of the competition.
My understanding is that we are still a ways off any final decisions being made, with any changes that are eventually agreed upon announced in early 2018 and taking effect in 2019.
The biggest and potentially the most controversial change that more than one credible source has told me is on the cards is the scrapping of men’s division two. Two of the three Northern League Federations are said to be on board with this move while AFF are apparently not as keen at present.
Other changes could see the reserves leagues scrapped in preference for a mirrored under 21 league for the premier division(s?) only, and for the women’s premier division to be cut from ten teams down to eight.
From my point of view as a mere mad football lover as opposed to a player, coach or administrator is that it looks like a bit of a mixed bag.
I don’t like the idea of scrapping division 2 because some of my favourite football moments of the past few years have come from there. Manukau City’s cup run in 2012, Claudelands Rovers’ promotion playoff miracle in 2013, duck curry at Mangere United, any game on Mangere Mountain, and anyone who would be happier without Waiheke United in their lives is dead inside!
I do, however, fully acknowledge that “Enzo likes duck curry and flares” is possibly not, in itself, a good enough basis to continue a whole football division. Still though…
The rumoured proposals around reserves sound sensible, but my give-a-stuff factor on that only extends as far as whether or not it will make life easier for non-Auckland teams in order to retain the geographic diversity of the league. I’m sure that other stakeholders will have different views on that aspect largely depending on where in the region they are situated.
Auckland clubs tend to love their reserves like Family First loves not paying tax and will be just as disappointed if the fun stops. Whereas WaiBOP clubs (especially the lower division ones) generally think of reserves more in the way Gareth Morgan sees potential voters – as an unavoidable encumbrance.
The package as a whole would seem to create more of a pointy pyramid where clubs of various sizes and strengths will find their level. Clubs currently stuck in division 2 will be in conference or federation leagues pottering away against similar opposition. Clubs that are slightly bigger and stronger will be in division 1 unencumbered by reserves, and then the more elite level will be for bigger clubs with the resources to have strong youth teams.
In terms of cutting the number of teams in women’s premier, I guess that’s probably for the best. It will concentrate the talent a bit more, making more of the games interesting. Over the last few years there has always been an easybeat or two that makes for lopsided football. The downside is either fewer games or more games against the same opposition – which could get boring for players and spectators.
It’s interesting that Wellington have scrapped promotion and relegation in their re-badged ‘W-League’. This might be worth considering up this way, for a time at least, to provide a bit of stability so we end up with eight strong teams instead of seven strong ones while other weaker ones yo-yo back and forth without really making the step up.
But enough of my waffle! It would be interesting to see what other people’s opinions of these potential changes are. What say you?
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.