Another big permanent discussion point about football in Australia is whether we could introduce a promotion relegation system.
I am conflicted on this issue. Although more and more I am starting to think that we must have it and find a viable method of doing it. Having a promotion and relegation system would have so many pluses. In the A-League by the time we reach the half of the season some teams have little or no chance to reach the finals. So some matches are relatively insignificant. A battle for staying in the first tier would spice up the competition. It would also invigorate any lower league as teams will now have a chance to step up to the ‘big time’, something that they had no chance to do before. Also having the same teams every season in the A-League can become stale. A relegation and promotion system would allow new teams to come up and refresh the league.
But then I come to the possible problems. One of the arguments that I feel is the weakest regarding promotion and relegation is that ‘we should be like other leagues overseas’. but that’s exactly the point, we are not like other leagues overseas. Football in Australia is, despite its growth in the past years, not the most popular code. It is not like football countries where a relegated team can rely on a substantial core of supporters that follow the team come hell or high water. Would a relegation spell the end fotr some teams? We can see in the A-League teams with small following have been in trouble and have fallen by the wayside. A-League teams are businesses and most of them lose money. Would current owners of A-League teams have been interested in putting their money in a concern that could have fallen away from the premium competition in Australia? Would they still do so if a relegation promotion system is introduced?
The other issue is the current state of potential second tier teams. Would a team such as the Bentleigh Greens (that did so well in the FFA Cup) be able to cut it in the A-League in its current form? The FFA would have to implement some sort of initiative to ensure that such teams are not starting behind the A ball if they were to be promoted to the A-League.
I think we need to debate – without prejudice – this issue, and separate it from the argument of ‘old soccer vs. new football). The fact that traditional teams have been treated badly by the FFA is indisputable, but we won’t progress the debate if we get stuck in whether old NSL teams deserve to be in the A-League etc. We need to look forward. We need to think creatively such as ECP and Simon Hill have done and debate the proposals on their merit. The success of the FFA Cup has shown that involving state teams is a winner. Relegation and promotion should not be discounted out of hand, but it is something that should implemented whan all the ducks are lined up.