In an email obtained by ITBOTN this afternoon, three weeks to the end of the season, AFF has indicated that the eighth-placed team in the 2017 Women’s NRFL will be “involved in an appropriate playoff which also invites the winner(s) of AFF/NFF Women’s Conference League and/or WaiBOP Premier League to be involved – this will determine the eighth team to be invited to take part in the 2018 NRFL Women’s Premier League competition”. The result of this playoff will determine the final team of the 2018 Women’s NRFL, thus shifting the league from a 10-team competition to an eight-team one.
In detailing the change, AFF notes that while “the notification and confirmation of this to clubs has been delivered later than ideal, the ultimate outcome – an eight-team Premier League competition, aligns the competition with NZ Football’s Competitions Review recommendations on the numbers of teams involved in the top Regional Women’s Leagues around the country (6-8).” This year Capital Football moved its top women’s competition, the Capital Football W League (replacing the Women’s Central League), to a six-team format, albeit removing promotion to or relegation from this league until 2019.
The proposed change to the Women’s NRFL, and in particular its timing, has been met with frustration and anger by affected clubs, with one official (speaking in a personal capacity rather than on behalf of their club) saying that “to leave the decision this late in [the] season shows an absolute disrespect for the players, coaches, and clubs in general.”
Questions of respect aside, the fairness of the decision to the teams involved is another pressing issue. When the change was initially put to clubs for feedback in May, over a month into the 2017 season, an official from a prominent Auckland-based club described it as “harsh” given that teams had already committed to a particular competition format, and had allocated expenses accordingly, only to see that competition change. NRFL regulations state that “At the conclusion of the Women’s Premier season the lowest placed team is relegated to the Federation competition for the proceeding season.”
The proposed change means that of the original 10 entries to the 2017 Women’s NRFL, the team that effectively finishes third from bottom may be relegated. The Women’s NRFL was reduced to nine teams at the start of the season after Papatoetoe AFC withdrew due to an inability to field a Reserves team, thus making them ineligible to take part in NRFL football.
As the table stands tonight, this means that Norwest United, Forrest Hill Milford and Northland FC are all potentially in the mix as the NRFL playoff match candidates. There is no word yet from the federations involved as to whether the playoff match will involve randomly moving goalposts in the final 15 minutes of the match to reflect the 2017 competition.
Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.